Despite businesses gradually reopening and hiring idled workers, close to 20 million Americans are still receiving jobless aid as the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown continues to trigger a historically high number of layoffs.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed into law at the end of March increased jobless aid by $600 per week through the end of July. Once it expires, the amount of aid that out-of-work Americans receive will fall dramatically; at the end of 2019, the weekly average was $378.
But how much money out-of-work Americans receive from the government varies drastically by state.
States, which administer the benefits, have their own complex unemployment laws to determine how much money an individual should receive based on your weekly earnings before being laid off and on the maximum amount of aid distributed by the state. In many states, you will be compensated for roughly half of your earnings, up to a certain threshold.
Benefits are typically paid for up to 26 weeks.
Here are the five states with the lowest weekly maximum, before the extra $600 per week went into effect, according to state departments of labor.
- Mississippi: $235 per week
- Arizona: $240 per week
- Louisiana: $247 per week
- Alabama, Florida, Tennessee: $275 per week
- Missouri: $320 per week
Generally, Americans who are self-employed, unable to work or do not have a recent earnings history are ineligible to receive the benefits. The program also tends to exclude people who were fired or quit their jobs without good cause.
However, the CARES Act expands eligibility to include self-employed people, those seeking part-time employment and independent contractors. Americans who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or who are unable to go to work because of quarantine, would also be eligible.
To apply for benefits, contact your state’s unemployment office. You can typically file your claim online, via phone or in person, although because of the outbreak, most offices were shut down.