Filing for Unemployment Insurance
Applying for unemployment insurance is one way eligible workers can get back some of the income they used to generate. Unemployment insurance is temporary income that eligible workers receive when they lose their job through no fault of their own. If you’re wondering if you qualify, don’t count yourself out of consideration. Here are answers to questions that may be on your mind if you lost your job because of this pandemic and are navigating your state’s unemployment insurance system:
When can I apply?
As soon as you believe you have a claim, you should apply. No matter how well-funded or well-staffed a unemployment agency is, it often takes a couple of weeks to process benefits even in the best of times. So far, states including California, New York, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have waived the typical one-week waiting period between the time you lose your job and when you become eligible to collect unemployment insurance.
How much money should I expect to receive for unemployment?
Benefits are usually a percentage of the income from the job you held, but can vary dramatically from state to state. The amount you get is determined by a formula in your state’s law that factors in what you earned and how many hours or weeks you worked. Workers can expect to see wage replacement of 40-50%, maybe a little bit more, maybe a little bit less.
How long can I collect unemployment benefits?
Most states let you collect benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. North Carolina, Georgia and Florida have among the lowest number of benefit weeks in the country, because they award unemployment insurance on a sliding scale based on overall unemployment rates. In those states, the number ranges from 12 weeks to 20 weeks.
I have a job, but I have been placed on unpaid leave or furloughed. Do I qualify?
- Experts encourage professionals who are furloughed or put on unpaid leave because they were quarantined to apply. If you’re placed on unpaid leave, you may qualify because “it’s lack of work, it’s no fault of your own,”
- But if you volunteer for unpaid leave due to the coronavirus, like some airline staff are being asked to, you may not qualify for unemployment insurance.
- If your hours are cut because you’ve been put under a mandatory quarantine, you may also be entitled to partial unemployment benefits.
How exactly do I apply?
- You should file a claim in the state where you worked. If you worked in multiple states, you can discuss with the state unemployment office where you live on how you should file in the other states.
- Many states require you to file online. The U.S. Department of Labor’s list will direct you to your state’s website or note if there’s an option to phone. Be prepared with your employer’s address and the first and last day of your employment.
- Based on the high volume of applicants, states including New York and Kentucky are now asking claimants to follow an application schedule based on the alphabetic order of their names.
Is it quicker to apply by phone or online?
Most claims are made online, but there’s “no hard and fast rule” on which path is easier or quicker. Some states let you apply both on the phone and online; others don’t. You can check the options for your state on this Department of Labor website.
My state’s unemployment site crashed while I was applying. What should I do?
- Multiple states like New York and New Jersey reported that unemployment insurance websites crashed as applications surged. If this happens to your application, start over.
- Whatever you do, don’t lose the password to your application process. Many state UI systems can’t retrieve your password electronically.
I am undocumented. Do I qualify for unemployment insurance?
- If you are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives you relief from deportation and a work permit, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. In California, for example, you can apply for unemployment insurance if you are in satisfactory immigration status and authorized to work in the U.S.
- But if you are undocumented without work authorization, you will be ineligible for UI. If that’s your situation, consider additional ways to generate income through freelancing or entrepreneurship.
I am on sick leave due to coronavirus. Do I qualify?
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if the leave is paid, then no, you can’t get unemployment insurance at the same time.
- But if you’re on unpaid medical leave due to COVID-19, you may qualify. In Virginia, if a medical or public health official tells a worker to quarantine themselves and the worker is not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer, the worker may be eligible to get unemployment benefits.
- What if you choose not to work and self-quarantine because you believe you are asymptomatic? In Missouri, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits “if the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework.”
- The Department of Labor recently issued guidance to states saying that they can be more flexible with their unemployment insurance eligibility due to coronavirus. If you have to leave your job because of a risk of exposure or to care for a family member who had the coronavirus, you should be eligible, the federal government advised.
- Don't count yourself out of unemployment benefits if the COVID-19 pandemic forces closures, furloughs or layoffs at your company.
I’m a gig worker. Do I qualify?
- You should try, because even if your company calls you an independent contractor, you may be misclassified.
- To be eligible, people have to be employees. What people need to know is that it is not up to the company that hires you to decide if you are an employee or not, even if they call you an independent contractor. Ultimately that is a legal determination that the state decides when you apply for unemployment insurance.
- New Jersey, for example, ordered Uber to pay $650 million in unemployment and disability insurance taxes for misclassifying drivers as independent contractors.
- If the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program is eventually activated, it would make sure that gig workers, contract workers, and self-employed workers would qualify for unemployment assistance due to coronavirus.
What happens if I get denied?
You can be denied for making false statements, or if you voluntarily left your job, or if you’re not ready or able to work. But you do have the right to appeal. Check with your state’s unemployment agency for how the appeals process works.
What happens if I get approved for unemployment benefits?
Once your claim has been accepted, a check should come in the mail or through a direct deposit you set up. If everything goes smoothly, you should start receiving benefits in two to three weeks. In most states, receiving unemployment insurance comes with the condition that you continually verify that you are ready, able and willing to work immediately, and that you are actively looking for work. Some states are starting to loosen that job search requirement in these extraordinary times. Wisconsin, Nevada, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas, for example, are no longer requiring claimants to submit work search actions if they are applying for unemployment insurance because of COVID-19.
to get unemployment benefits information, file a claim, or find the status of an existing claim
- TWC website: log on to ui.texasworkforce.org to apply for benefits or get claim-specific status and payment information. Best time to apply online is between 10 pm to 8 am.
- Tele-Center: Call 800-939-6631, 8 am to 6 pm weekdays and 8 am to 5 pm Saturday, to speak with a customer service representative. Please note that call volume is extremely high.
- Additional Numbers:
- 817-420-1600, 956-984-4700, 210-258-6600, 915-832-6400
- Tele-Serve: Call 800-558-8321, the automated phone system from 7 am to 6 pm to get claim-specific status and payment information.
- Email: Send details about your question to UI_Info@twc.state.tx.us including your full name, address, phone number and last four digits of your SSN.
- PIN Reset: Need to reset your unemployment benefit services PIN? If your account is from 2015 or earlier, TWC has removed your old PIN. Try the online system again at https://apps.twc.state.tx.us/USB/secuarity/logon.do If your unable to reset via the portal, you can now update your PIN over the phone without requiring you to file your claim at the same time. Call 800-558-8321 Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm; Saturday 8 am – 5 pm.
- If you have previously exhausted UI, they may be extended under the recent Federal Stimulus Bill. What do you need to do? Nothing. If you recently exhausted benefits, no action is needed from you. TWC will determine if you quality and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.
- Employees: Questions about Unemployment or Employment Insurance: 800-832-2829 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Employers: Legal options and work from home Policies: 800-832-9394 or email@example.com