Unemployment Benefits Amid COVID-19: How Much Money Can You Get?

Unemployment benefits

Getty Job seeker Carlos Zambrano fills out an application in Los Angeles.

In order to fight the pandemic spread of coronavirus, non-essential businesses have been forced to shut down, which has caused an unprecedented spike in the number of workers suddenly getting laid off or put on indefinite furlough. Over the past three weeks, as more cities enforce a “Safer at Home” order, millions of people have now found themselves jobless.

While waiting to see what kind of bailout people can receive from the government’s $2 trillion stimulus package, out-of-work citizens are filing for unemployment benefits by the masses. According to CNN, by March 21, 3.28 million applied have already filed claims after becoming jobless due to COVID-19, the highest number ever seen in American history.

So, how much money can you get from unemployment benefits? What the maximum amount of money people can claim? The answers to both of these questions vary depending on the state that you live in, as there is no nationwide set number when it comes to the minimum or maximum amount of money a person can receive via unemployment. To check out your state’s unemployment website and learn about their specific application process, this article includes the website link to all 50 states.


How Much Money You Can Receive A Week Through Unemployment Is Dependent Upon Your Previous Income

The purpose of unemployment benefits is to partially replace lost wages, therefore, the amount of money allotted to someone largely depends on the amount of income they were making before losing their job.

However, the financial information assessed to determine your income rate in order to decide on how much you can receive via unemployment benefits varies from state to state. While some states only look at a person’s highest-paid quarter or two-quarters, others consider the person’s full-year total earnings. To get an idea of the amount of money you can receive after applying for benefits, the Unemployment Benefits Calculator offers an immediate guesstimate.

For example, in Tennessee, the maximum amount of benefits paid out weekly is $275, a number determined of the average of your two highest-paid quarters. But in California, the maximum amount of money given for unemployment benefits is $450 a week is determind upon the highest paid quarter of the base period by 26.

In Massachusetts, where resident can qualify for up to $742 a week, for up to 30 weeks, it’s based on the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before your filing date. For example, if you’re applying in April 2020, the base period January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019.

In New York, the maximum allotment is $504 a week, and the base period determination is the same as Massachusetts. However, there’s also an alternate base period for those who don’t meet those earnings requirements:

• You must have earned wages in at least two of the four calendar quarters that make up the base period.
• You must have earned at least $2,600 (in 2020) in the highest-paid quarter of the base period.
• Your total earnings in the base period must be at least one-and-a-half times your earnings in the highest-paid quarter. If you earned more than $11,088 in the highest-paid quarter, the agency will use $11,088 as your earnings during that quarter. In other words, your total earnings during the base period need not be higher than $16,632 ($11,088 x 1.5), no matter how much you made in your highest-paid quarter.

Check your state’s website to learn about their alternative calculation methods if you don’t meet the suggested base pay periods.


By Summer, The Number Of People Applying For Unemployment Is Expected To Be 14 Million

Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz, who previously worked as a chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor said the current number of people applying for unemployment benefits will continue to skyrocket over the next few months. She tweeted that by summer, 14 million workers will have lost their jobs due to coronavirus.”

To handle the demand, state unemployment offices have upped their staff. New York hired 65 additional staff amid coronavirus job losses and Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity announced that they were looking to hire 100 more staff members to help guide people through the application process.

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