coronavirus unemployment benefits
Updated May 13, 2020

Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits: What You Need to Know


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Coronavirus has already had a major impact on the American economy, and it could get even worse in the near future.

While every economic crisis eventually passes, it’s important to get your finances ready for a period of uncertainty.

Fortunately, both public services and private organizations are providing relief to people struggling during coronavirus.

Whether you need financial assistance now or just want to be prepared, you should start looking into these programs as soon as possible.

If you lost your job in the past several weeks, unemployment should be your top financial priority.

One Fair Wage Emergency Fund

One Fair Wage is a nonprofit that supports a true minimum wage for tipped and service workers. The One Fair Wage Emergency Fund is offering financial help to restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and Uber and Lyft drivers who have lost work due to coronavirus.

Anyone can donate to the fund, and you can sign up for help through their website. You’ll be asked for basic information about your financial situation and previous employment.

A single nonprofit can’t fill the need for widespread unemployment benefits, but One Fair Wage is doing everything they can to support families and individuals. Don’t think of this program as a replacement for government support — you should also file for unemployment as soon as possible.

Believe it or not, AOC and Fox News teamed up to give some absolutely horrible tax advice pertaining to the CARES Act stimulus package.  Learn what it is in the video below!


Trump recently signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) to offer financial support to millions of Americans. The bill includes several critical measures such as direct payments of $1200 to most American adults and unemployment extensions for people who lose their jobs.

It also adds 13 weeks to the usual unemployment limit of 26 weeks as well as other measures including an additional $600 per week in benefits and payments for the week in which a claim is filed, which is currently treated as a waiting period in many states. Some other notable changes include:

  • Extending unemployment benefits to self-employed and contract workers
  • Suspending federal student loan payments through September 30th
  • Requiring businesses with fewer than 500 employees to offer at least 80 hours in paid sick leave in case workers need to take time off due to COVID-19 (whether they are sick or caring for a dependent)

Unfortunately, it will take time for checks to go out and for states to start taking these guidelines into account. Stimulus checks are expected to arrive by the end of April, but your financial concerns may not wait until then.

Note that someone could possibly make more on unemployment now than they did while employed.

So let’s say someone makes $15 an hour before taxes and all that, so that’s $600 a week for a 40-hour week.

And let’s say they get laid off.  What happens?

They apply for and get unemployment from their state.  How much depends on your state.  Here in California someone who consistently made $15 an hour for the past couple years could expect approximately $300 per week in unemployment benefits.

But they would also get $600 a week due to the CARES Act.

Add that $600 due to the CARES Act plus $300 for normal unemployment, and what do you get?  $900 per week.

State Unemployment Benefits

In the meantime, a number of states have started offering their own relief programs and adjusting unemployment in light of the CARES Act. State governments and labor departments are regularly updating their websites with the latest information.

Please note that this table was last updated on March 30, 2020, and states may have updated their programs since then.

AlabamaAlabama has waived charges for employers that file partial unemployment claims for their employees. If you lose your job due to coronavirus, you are not required to actively look for work as long as you take steps to come back when things start returning to normal. Applicants no longer need to wait seven days before receiving benefits.
AlaskaAlaska’s House Bill 308 enables anyone out of work because of COVID-19 to apply for benefits. As in Alabama, the traditional seven-day waiting period has been waived, and you do not need to be “ready and able to work.” The maximum dependent allowance was also increased to $75 per dependent.
ArizonaArizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order on March 20th directing the state government to respond to coronavirus. Applications became available on March 23th, and resources can be given retroactively for financial difficulties as early as March 11th. Like in many other states, the requirements to wait one week and actively look for work were waived for COVID-19.
ArkansasArkansas has waived the seven-day waiting period and job search requirements for claims filed on or after March 16th. These provisions are only effective through April 18th, so stay updated with the latest developments on the Arkansas COVID-19 resource page for both employers and employees.
CaliforniaCalifornia’s Employment and Development Department has a comprehensive landing page for concerns about coronavirus. Different situations are handled through different channels—for example, you should file for Paid Family Leave if you’re leaving work to care for someone, or Disability Insurance if you’re personally exposed to COVID-19. The one-week unpaid waiting period has been waived for all coronavirus-related applications.
ColoradoThe Colorado website offers a list of resources for workers who have been affected by coronavirus. People whose last names start with A through M should file on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, or after noon local time on Saturday. N-Z names can file on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or before noon on Saturday. Unfortunately, the FAQ claims that the one-week waiting period is still being enforced.
ConnecticutWhile the Connecticut state website has a coronavirus page, there isn’t much information on how this affects unemployment benefits. The site doesn’t say anything about waived requirements, and the deputy commissioner recently stated that the state is “at least three weeks behind” in processing unemployment claims. Workers are eligible for retroactive pay, but you should still file as soon as you can in order to receive benefits quickly.
DelawareDelaware has already created a FAQ to answer questions related to coronavirus. Waiting periods have been waived, so you should start sending weekly pay authorizations the Sunday after filing a claim. You will be considered temporarily laid off if you have to stop working due to quarantine, caregiving, or other situations that stem from coronavirus.
FloridaThe Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is overseeing unemployment in the sake of COVID-19. Like other departments nationwide, the state is receiving an extremely high volume of claims. The website has very little information about coronavirus and how it affects unemployment insurance. There’s no indication that the seven-day waiting period or any other restrictions have been waived.
GeorgiaGeorgia never required a waiting week for unemployment, so you should be able to receive benefits shortly after applying. Claims filed on or after March 14th aren’t subject to the job search requirement. Check out the COVID-19 FAQ for more information about Georgia’s response to coronavirus.
HawaiiHawaii’s COVID-19 Labor Benefits Fact Sheet provides an outline of the state’s unemployment benefits during the coronavirus crisis. The usual waiting period has been waived for Unemployment Insurance claims. On the other hand, you may need to apply for Temporary Disability Insurance if you are ill or quarantined, or Workers’ Compensation if you get COVID-19 at work. These programs have seven- and three-day waiting periods respectively.
IdahoThe Idaho Department of Labor has a coronavirus FAQ, but it doesn’t offer much for people who are struggling due to COVID-19. There’s no mention of waived requirements. Furthermore, you won’t be eligible for benefits if you stay home because you or someone you know is infected. There are no exceptions for families with children whose schools have closed.
IllinoisThe Illinois governor signed an executive order waiving the seven-day waiting period for unemployment. That said, claimants are still required to actively look for work unless they are expecting to return to their previous job. The COVID-19 FAQ states that school closures have led the Department of Employment Security to offer more benefits to people who need to take care of children at home.
IndianaUnfortunately, Indiana’s FAQ page claims that the usual one-week waiting period is still in effect. You won’t receive benefits for one week after filing, so it’s even more important to file a claim quickly. On the other hand, benefits have been expanded to cover quarantine and care situations.
IowaIowa never had a waiting week for unemployment, so you should be eligible for benefits for the week you file. The COVID-19 Q & A provides answers to common questions about coronavirus. Unemployment eligibility is determined on a case by case basis for situations related to coronavirus—for example, being self-quarantined or staying home to take care of family members.
KansasThe Kansas Department of Labor has posted a COVID-19 FAQ for people facing unemployment due to coronavirus. You do not have to look for work after filing for unemployment insurance, and there is no waiting week for claims related to COVID-19. The FAQ recommends using the website rather than calling in order to minimize waiting times.
KentuckyWhile Kentucky doesn’t have a dedicated page for unemployment questions in the wake of coronavirus, the state has already taken measures to respond to the virus and bolster unemployment. Claimants no longer need to wait a week before receiving funding, and Kentucky also took the crucial step of extending unemployment benefits to self-employed and contract workers.
LouisianaLouisiana’s response to COVID-19 included waiving the waiting week and requirement to look for a new job after losing work due to coronavirus. When filing, make sure to specify that your claim is related to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the page doesn’t say anything about expanding claims to support people who are staying home to take care of family members.
MaineOn March 17th, The Maine legislature passed a bill covering people who have been affected by coronavirus but haven’t lost their jobs, as in caretaking and quarantine situations. The Unemployment FAQ for COVID-19 offers answers to a variety of additional questions. The waiting week and job search requirements have been waived for recent claims.
MarylandMaryland’s Department of Labor also has a detailed COVID-19 FAQ. You are not required to search for work during the crisis. On the other hand, the FAQ doesn’t mention any exemptions from the usual waiting week, or any information for people who have been forced to stop working for personal situations rather than having their hours cut.
MassachusettsThe Massachusetts state government has posted COVID-19 Guidance and Directives for anyone who has been affected by coronavirus. Like other states, Massachusetts has waived the waiting week for unemployment claims, and you can receive unemployment if you’re staying home for quarantine purposes or to take care of a family member.
MichiganIf you need to file for unemployment in Michigan because of coronavirus, check the state’s COVID-19 Guide for information and resources. The deadline for claims has been extended to 28 days instead of 14 days after being laid off, and citizens can now file for unemployment even if they left for personal reasons related to coronavirus instead than being fired. Michigan doesn’t require a waiting week for unemployment claims.
MinnesotaThe Minnesota Unemployment Insurance website is consistently updating a page for questions related to coronavirus. The Governor recently signed an executive order waiving the waiting week for claims filed on or after March 1st. Instead of actively looking for jobs, you can satisfy this requirement by updating your resume, researching future employment opportunities, and other actions that will help you find work after things return to normal.
MississippiThe Governor of Mississippi signed Executive Order No. 1462 on March 21st to expand unemployment benefits in light of the coronavirus crisis. Both the work search and waiting week requirements have been waived through June 27th. Check out the COVID-19 resource page for more information about the state’s response.
MissouriMissouri’s Department of Labor posted an update covering the current unemployment situation. Like many other states, Missouri has waived the rule that requires claimants to look for work in order to receive benefits. While the department is “working on temporarily waiving the waiting week requirement for coronavirus-related claims,” the site doesn’t say when that is expected to happen.
MontanaYou can view the COVID-19 Resource Guide on the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s website. You don’t need to actively apply for work if there’s a reasonable expectation that you’ll have work again in the near future. Governor Steve Bullock recently suspended the typical waiting week.
NebraskaNebraska has a COVID-19 Employment FAQ for workers and employers, but it doesn’t offer much additional help. There’s no mention of waived requirements for unemployment, and the page also also states that you can’t file for unemployment if you’re not able to work because you have coronavirus. That said, some workers may qualify for 12 weeks of job-protected time off.
NevadaThe Nevada COVID-19 FAQ for claimants is the best place to start if you need to file a claim for unemployment. Work search waivers are currently valid through April 16th due to an executive order signed by Governor Sisolak. This order also waived the waiting week that’s usually applied to new unemployment claims.
New HampshireUnfortunately, New Hampshire doesn’t have a centralized page for unemployment questions related to coronavirus. There is some information available on a local news site, including an interview with the Deputy Employment Security Commissioner. Payments will be made within eight days of the claim being filed, and you can receive unemployment insurance for a variety of reasons stemming from COVID-19. New Hampshire is one of the only states that has extended unemployment benefits to self-employed workers.
New JerseyNew Jersey’s informational page claims that the state has “among the most comprehensive” laws for sick leave, family leave, and temporary disability. You should be able to take advantage of at least one of these programs if you find yourself out of work for any reason related to coronavirus. The site doesn’t say anything about faster payouts. Benefits are transferred 17 days after the date of your claim.
New MexicoNew Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency to facilitate the response to coronavirus. The Fact Sheet for workers affected by COVID-19 provides information about available resources. While the work search requirement has been waived for up to four weeks, the state is still enforcing a waiting week on all new claims.
New YorkNew York City is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States, and you can find the state’s coronavirus-related measures on the Resource page. Keep in mind that some rights vary depending on whether you live upstate or in NYC/Westchester. The waiting week has been waived for all unemployment claims statewide.
North CarolinaCheck North Carolina’s COVID-19 Information page if you want to know more about filing for unemployment. Governor Cooper signed an executive order on March 17th extending benefits to people who have lost work due to coronavirus. You will not have to wait a week for benefits if you’re filing a claim as a direct result of COVID-19.
North DakotaThe North Dakota Job Service has published a list of resources for people who need to file for unemployment in the wake of coronavirus. While this page says that people who are forced to quarantine aren’t eligible for benefits, an executive order signed by Governor Burgum expanded access to unemployment while waiving the waiting week and job search requirements.
OhioOhio’s Department of Job and Family Services posted a Q & A covering changes to the unemployment program in response to COVID-19. Benefits are now available for those who are asked to quarantine, but not for those who are taking care of a loved one. You don’t need to look for work, and the waiting week requirement has been waived for the duration of the emergency.
OklahomaYou can find information about filing for unemployment in Oklahoma on the Employment Security Commission’s website. The FAQs and Important Messages page states that the waiting week is no longer in effect for claims made on or after March 15th. The job search requirement has also been temporarily waived. That said, the site doesn’t say anything about extending benefits to a wider range of cases, for example quarantine or caretaking situations.
OregonThe Oregon Employment Department FAQ page has answers to the most pressing questions about unemployment insurance for new claimants. You do not need to actively look for a job as long as you are preparing to return to work when possible. People who are quarantining, taking care of others, or taking time off rather than working offsite can all apply for benefits. You can also receive benefits for the week of your claim rather than waiting a week before the first check.
PennsylvaniaInformation about filing for unemployment in Pennsylvania can be found through the Office of Unemployment Compensation. You may be eligible for benefits if you have been told to quarantine or avoid work, but there is currently no information for people who need to stop working in order to take care of relatives. The waiting week has been suspended to expedite benefits in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rhode IslandThe COVID-19 Fact Sheet is a great resource for Rhode Island employees and employers. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits or temporary disability insurance. The waiting week is no longer in effect, and benefits are available to those in caretaking situations, but the page doesn’t say anything about the typical job search requirement.
South CarolinaThe South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce published a statement on the state’s response to COVID-19. The waiting week and job search requirements were waived through two separate executive orders. Both rules will be suspended through at least April 18th, but there’s no information about expanded benefits for people who are in quarantine or taking care of family members.
South DakotaYou can learn about the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s coronavirus measures on their COVID-19 resource page. Unfortunately, the unpaid waiting week is still in effect. The work search requirement has been waived for coronavirus-related layoffs lasting ten weeks or less. People who are caring for dependents and unable to work are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
TennesseeTennessee’s COVID-19 FAQ outlines the state government’s response to coronavirus. While the work search requirement is still in effect, the page states that this may change in the near future. You may be eligible for benefits if you were ordered to quarantine, but there’s no mention of benefits for those who are taking care of dependents. The waiting week was recently suspended by an executive order.
TexasThe Texas Workforce Commission has posted comprehensive COVID-19 resources for job seekers. The work search requirement has been waived for all claimants, while the waiting week has been waived for claims related to coronavirus. Other than that, the state hasn’t adjusted any unemployment rules or practices, although that may change as the situation continues to develop.
UtahCheck out Utah’s COVID-19 FAQ for employees if you need to file for unemployment because of coronavirus. Unfortunately, people who cannot work due to illness are not eligible for benefits. Furthermore, the Department is still enforcing a waiting week despite the federal government funding the first week of unemployment benefits. While work search exemptions are being granted in some cases, they have not yet been waived for all claims.
VermontThe Vermont Department of Labor has a COVID-19 page with resources and answers for anyone interested in filing for unemployment. While you may be able to receive benefits if you need to quarantine, unemployment is not available to those who are caring for a family member. On the other hand, people in this situation may be covered by other benefits. The work search requirement has been waived, and the state doesn’t appear to have a waiting period for unemployment claims.
VirginiaThere’s a thorough Q & A page for coronavirus-related concerns on the Virginia Employment Commission’s website. Governor Northam waived the one-week waiting period and job search requirements for all claims filed on or after March 15th. Unfortunately, there’s no information about the availability of unemployment benefits for people forced to leave work for different situations stemming from COVID-19, for example people who have been asked to quarantine or who need to take care of dependents.
WashingtonWashington has introduced several changes to unemployment in response to coronavirus. These are outlined on the Employment Security Department’s resource page for workers affected by COVID-19. Work search requirements are now optional for all claimants, and there is no longer a waiting period for new claims. People without childcare who need to stay home to take care of dependents aren’t typically eligible for unemployment.
West VirginiaWest Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed an executive order extending unemployment benefits on March 19th. You can read details about the order and other responses to coronavirus on the WorkForce page for COVID-19. Some of the most important changes include waiving the waiting week and work search requirements along with offering benefits to people asked to quarantine. That said, the executive order doesn’t cover people who need to stay home for other reasons related to COVID-19.
WisconsinThe Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development posted information for both claimants and employers about unemployment during the coronavirus crisis. You are not required to look for work for the length of the emergency, and you can receive benefits for the week of your claim. You may be eligible for unemployment if you’re placed in mandatory quarantine, but not if you are ill or have to stay home to take care of a child.
WyomingYou can find information about filing for unemployment in Wyoming on the Department of Workforce Services’ COVID-19 page. The FAQ states that mandatory quarantine violates the requirement to be available for work, and there is no information about a waiting period, job search requirements, or benefits for those who need to care of dependents.
Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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