How to File for Unemployment During Coronavirus: Are You Eligible for Benefits?

unemployment coronavirus


The coronavirus outbreak has caused a huge uptick in filed claims for unemployment in the last few weeks, and for good reason: small businesses are shut down across the country, with several cities requiring “shelter in place” lockdowns, and many other cities requiring “non-essential” businesses, like bars and museums, to stay shut as a means of curtailing the spread of the virus. As a result, thousands of people have lost their jobs, and might want to know how to apply for unemployment benefits during the outbreak.

If you plan on filing for unemployment in the next few days, you might need to prepare yourself for technical issues. Many state websites have crashed in recent days, because of the overload of claims filed. To NPR, Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said that people generally have to wait ten minutes, at the longest, to speak with someone on the phone about filing for unemployment. Now, it might take up to two hours.

According to NPR, new claims for unemployment rose to 281,000 last week, the highest since Sept. 2, 2017, and an increase of 70,000 from the week before.

Here’s what you need to know:

How to File For Unemployment Benefits & Insurance in Every State During the Coronavirus Outbreak


Below, you’ll find links to each state’s unemployment claims site, where you can file for unemployment benefits. You might be able to apply for benefits online, or you might have to call in — in which case, you should prepare for a wait time of over an hour.

Here’s the list of unemployment links, for each state:


How to Know if You’re Eligible for Unemployment Benefits During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Unemployment eligibility varies by state. The links above will be able to clarify what the eligibility is for unemployment, on a granular level. Here are some examples of the requirements you have to meet in order to receive unemployment benefits, from a handful of states.

California Unemployment Benefits: Are You Eligible?

Here are the requirements you need to fit in order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state of California:

  • Totally or partially unemployed.
  • Unemployed through no fault of your own.
  • Physically able to work.
  • Available for work.
  • Ready and willing to accept work immediately.
  • Actively looking for work.

Massachusetts Unemployment Benefits: Are You Eligible?

Here are the requirements you need to fit in order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state of Massachusetts:

  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Massachusetts law.
  • You must have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before you were unemployed.
  • You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.

Unemployment Horror Stories During Coronavirus: Marriott Employees Unable to Receive Unemployment Benefits

Because of the requirements necessary to receive unemployment benefits, some employees have been unable to work, but also unable to receive these benefits. In one case, Marriott employees reported being unable to receive benefits because they hadn’t technically been laid off; they’d just had their hours reduced to “zero” because of the coronavirus outbreak.

One person tweeted on March 17, “My brother got laid off yesterday from Marriott. He applied for unemployment; they called to check his employment status. Marriott HR says he’s NOT laid off but on a ZERO hour schedule. So he can’t qualify for unemployment NOR does he have health insurance.”

Others have argued that it’s still possible to receive unemployment benefits in this instance, depending on the state. A person tweeted in reply to that original story, “Please tell your brother to push back with unemployment. In most states, having your hours cut still qualifies you for benefits, even if you’re technically ’employed.’ “

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