How to file for unemployment as coronavirus job losses mount

The programs vary by state, so the application process will depend on where you work

The economic effects of the coronavirus are deepening as the illness spreads throughout the U.S. – impacting many Americans’ working lives.

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A new analysis from Goldman Sachs predicts that as many as 2.25 million unemployment claims could be filed this week. The previous record – 700,000 – was set in 1982.

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on Monday that the weekly unemployment claims number would be “a large number.”

Last week, 281,000 people filed jobless claims (for the week ending March 14) as federal and state governments across the country asked businesses to close down and workers to stay home in an attempt to limit human-to-human contact.

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If you find yourself among the many workers who are out of work as businesses across the country shutter, here’s what to know about filing an unemployment claim:

Eligibility

In order to qualify for unemployment insurance, it is generally required that individuals meet certain criteria, as outlined on the Department of Labor’s website. Those criteria include:

  • You are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
  • You meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a "base period." (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.)
  • You meet any other specific criteria outline by your state

Unemployment programs are administered jointly by the federal government and state governments – as such, procedures and criteria can vary. You can view your specific state’s program here.

How to apply

In order to apply for unemployment insurance benefits, you must file a claim through your state’s program, which – depending on where you live – could require you to file online, in person or by telephone.

The Department of Labor recommends you contact your state’s program as soon as possible after you become unemployed. It typically takes two to three weeks to receive your first benefit check after your claim has been filed.

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To make sure your claim gets processed in a timely fashion, make sure all of the information you provide is accurate.

The Department of Labor is allowing states to amend their programs to specifically address new challenges brought on by the coronavirus. That flexibility allows states to pay insurance to individuals who, for example, leaves employment due to risk of exposure or to care for a family member.

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As previously reported by FOX Business, lawmakers were looking to potentially boost unemployment insurance for those who lost their jobs due to the effects of the coronavirus. Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a stakeout on Capitol Hill last week that they were both on board with a proposal to “substantially” increase unemployment insurance checks.

Graham said that lawmakers are considering having the federal government “make up the difference” of the amount of an individual’s unemployment check at the state level, up to 75 percent of his or her income, for a person earning $80,000.

The government is also planning to send checks of $1,200 to many American households as a separate form of relief. If the situation doesn’t improve, the government could issue two of these direct cash payments.