What is Unemployment Insurance?
Unemployment Insurance (UI) provides unemployment benefits, usually in the form of weekly payments, to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own, and meet certain other eligibility requirements. UI is administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor and individual states.
In March 2020, the federal CARES Act greatly expanded unemployment insurance. Many workers who were not previously covered are now eligible. You may now be eligible if any of the following are true:
- Your employer permanently or temporarily laid you off due to coronavirus measures
- Your employer reduced your work hours due to coronavirus measures
- You are self-employed and have lost income due to coronavirus measures
- You’re quarantined and can’t work due to coronavirus
- You’re unable to work due to a risk of exposure to coronavirus
- You can’t work because you’re caring for a family member due to coronavirus
In addition to expanding eligibility, new federal law also:
- Increased the weekly benefit amount that states pay. Although the original extra $600 ended in July, most states are now able to offer an additional $300 or $400 per week, under the federal Lost Wages Assistance, approved in August.
- Provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits for people who are still unemployed after their state benefit period runs out.
Please note that each state implements the above policies within their own Unemployment Insurance program. Since the law has changed so recently, many states are still in the process of updating their systems. If you are eligible, or think you might be eligible, you should apply now.
How do I apply for unemployment benefits?
First, select your state in the Unemployment Benefits Finder, and follow the links to find details of your state’s program. You'll see information about how to file in your state.
If your state has specific information related to recent law changes, you will see a link to that information. Please note that states are currently updating their programs to respond to recent federal law changes. If you don't see updated information yet, you should still apply. If you have already applied, then once your state updates their information you will receive your full benefits or be notified if your state needs more information.
Which state do I file in?
You should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, contact the state unemployment agency in the state where you now live for information about how to file your claim with other states.
What do I do if I can’t get through to my state’s website or phone line?
Many state websites, phone numbers, and unemployment systems are overwhelmed by extremely high levels of traffic. State unemployment agencies ask that you have patience if you have trouble getting to a website or filing your claim. They suggest trying at different times of the day, and to keep trying. If you have trouble loading a website page on your computer, you can try your phone instead; sometimes phones have faster Internet connections.
What do I do if I have trouble completing my application?
Most state sites provide a list of FAQs to answer questions you may have including application issues, PIN numbers, and security questions. If you don’t see information about your specific problem, look for a phone number in your state to call.
Scam alert: Please note that CareerOneStop or government Unemployment Insurance programs will never charge a fee for providing information or filing an application for benefits.
My state says I need to register for work to be eligible for unemployment insurance. How do I do that?
States have different requirements for unemployment recipients to prove they are ready to work. Some states have waived these requirements. To find your state’s requirements, visit your state’s Unemployment Insurance website and look for a COVID-19 page or an FAQ page, or search for ”register for work". If you have trouble finding the information, contact your local American Job Center (many offices are closed but services are available online o by phone). You can also check your state’s job bank to see if registration there is required.
I’m self-employed. How do I file for unemployment benefits?
If you are self-employed or a gig worker and have lost income due to COVID-19, you are most likely eligible for unemployment benefits under a special program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. In most states, PUA is separate from the regular Unemployment Insurance program.
To learn how to file in your state, visit your state’s Unemployment Insurance website and read the FAQs or special instructions for COVID-19 unemployment. You can also search your state’s website for “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” or “PUA” or “self-employed unemployment.” Many states require that you first register for regular Unemployment Insurance so if you can’t find information on what to do in your state, trying filing for UI at your state’s Unemployment Insurance website.
Will the extra $600 per week in additional benefits be extended?
The additional $600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment ended on July 31, 2020. Congress is currently discussing whether to extend those benefits and whether to keep the amount at $600 or reduce it. Some state governments are also considering extending additional benefits, but none are final yet. Check back here for updates; the information on this page will be revised if benefits are extended. In the mean time, states will continue to pay the state portion of weekly unemployment benefits.
Will I get the extra $400 from the president’s executive order?
Some states are beginning to pay an enhanced federal insurance benefit authorized by the president on August 8. Before they can offer the additional money, state must first go through an approval process which can take several weeks. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance website to learn if and when the enhanced benefits might be included in your weekly benefit payments.
How do I apply for the 13-week extension?
Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) offers an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. Each state implements their own system for delivering these extended benefits. Check your state’s Unemployment Insurance website for details.
I only have a short work history. Am I still eligible for unemployment benefits?
If you don’t meet your state’s usual requirements for unemployment benefits (typically up to a year of full-time work history), you may still be eligible for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Under this program, states are able to provide benefits to people with shorter work histories. Check your state’s Unemployment Insurance website for details.