Applying for Unemployment Benefits: Everything You Need to Know

If your income has been negatively affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, you're not alone. Millions of people have temporarily or permanently lost their jobs due to this pandemic, making it difficult or impossible to pay monthly bills. 

Luckily, with the passing of the CARES Act (Coronavirus aid, relief, and economic security), new benefits have been made available, and more people are eligible for unemployment benefits. If you have lost your job or your income, you can apply for unemployment benefits to keep you afloat so you can continue to pay bills and expenses each month.

Here's everything you need to know about applying for unemployment, what the benefits are, and understanding the stimulus checks that will be sent out in the coming weeks.

Who's Eligible for Unemployment?

With the passing of the CARES act, eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits have significantly expanded, meaning just about everyone who has lost income due to the coronavirus is now eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

More specifically, people who may be eligible for unemployment include:

  • Employees that have lost their jobs
  • Employees that have taken a significant cut in wages
  • Gig workers (Uber drivers, food delivery services)
  • Contract workers
  • Freelance workers
  • People that are self-employed

To qualify for coronavirus unemployment benefits, you must meet one of three criteria:

  • You were ordered to quarantine by a medical professional or government agency (non-essential business shutdowns)
  • You lost your job (temporarily or permanently) due to the coronavirus
  • You are caring for a family member who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus

Previously, gig workers, freelancers, and self-employed workers were not eligible for unemployment. Luckily, this bill has dramatically expanded benefits to all types of workers that have been financially affected by this pandemic.

What Are the Unemployment Benefits?

Unemployment benefits vary from state to state, but in Florida, you can earn a maximum of $275 per week. However, the CARES act has added an additional $600 per week for up to four months of unemployment.

This means if you are approved for unemployment benefits, you can earn up to $875 per week for the next four months or until you start receiving your regular income again.

How to Apply for Unemployment

Applying for unemployment is easy, but with the increase in traffic over the last couple of weeks, it may take a bit longer for the website to load. 

All you need to do is fill out and submit your unemployment application here. In order to fill out your application, you will need your:

  • Social security number
  • Driver's license or state ID
  • Your past 18 months of employment (name of employer, reason for separation, earnings, and date of employment)

Once you submit your application, your claim will go to review to determine whether or not you qualify for unemployment benefits. 

Understanding the Stimulus Checks

In addition to the expansion of unemployment benefits, most workers will also receive a one-time stimulus check in the next few weeks for up to $1,200. In order to receive the stimulus check, you must have filed your taxes in either 2018 or 2019. If you were not eligible for the stimulus based on your 2018 salary, but you are eligible based on your 2019 salary, you should file your taxes for 2019 right away (if you haven't already) so you receive your check.

Here are the criteria for receiving the stimulus check:

  • All Americans with an adjusted gross income below $75,000 (or $150,000 for married couples) will receive the full amount of $1,200 (or $2,400 for married couples)
  • An extra $500 will be given per each dependant child
  • People with no income are eligible for the same amount ($1,200 for each adult + $500 for each child)
  • People who have been listed as a dependent on another person's tax return are not eligible
  • People who receive their income from means-tested programs, such as Social Security, are eligible and do not need to have filed their taxes to receive a stimulus check
  • Americans who make between $75,000 and $99,000 (or married couples making between $150,000 and $198,000) are eligible for reduced stimulus checks

These payments are not taxable and may arrive in as little as three weeks. If you have direct deposit set up with the IRS, you will receive your payments quicker. If not, you will receive your stimulus check via the postal service.

Apply for Unemployment Today

If you have been financially affected by the coronavirus, you are likely eligible for some unemployment benefits. Apply today so you can start receiving some financial assistance to keep you afloat through these tough times.

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