I Filed an Unemployment Claim, What's Next?
As you may have heard, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes provisions to bolster state Unemployment Insurance (UI) payments, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and the millions of Americans applying for unemployment benefits. Not only are more people eligible to file for unemployment, including part-time and freelance/gig workers, but those who qualify could receive an extra $600 weekly, in addition to state unemployment benefits, at least temporarily.
If you’re like so many millions of Americans who have suffered from cut hours, furloughs, or layoffs due to the coronavirus, you may have already figured out how to file for unemployment in your state and started the process of providing required information and documents. If you have yet to hear back from your state UI offices or receive funds, you may naturally wonder what comes next.
Some states allow you to complete your UI application without submitting essential documents, so you might think your job is done. However, you may still have to submit certain proof of your claim, such as identification (state ID or driver’s license) and documents related to your employment over the past 12-18 months, including proof of employment and earnings, just for example. Failure to submit could result in an incomplete application and delayed or denied benefits.
Watch for Follow-Up
Whether you elected to receive information about your UI claim electronically or by mail, it’s smart to keep an eye out for updates. If any required information or documentation is missing from your application, your state UI offices should contact you to request missing components in order to complete your application. You’ll want to fulfill requirements as soon as possible to avoid delays to release of your unemployment benefits.
Just because you’ve been approved to receive unemployment benefits doesn’t mean your work is done. Rules regarding UI benefits vary by state, but recipients are typically required to recertify every two weeks by providing ongoing eligibility information. Failure to do this could result in delayed or denied benefits.
In the past, part of the process of recertifying was confirming that you had been seeking and applying for new employment, but this requirement is being waived in many cases due to the fact that coronavirus “shelter in place” orders are making it nearly impossible to seek new work. That said, you will still be required to recertify in order to confirm your ongoing unemployment status.
Wait for Benefits
Once you have submitted all required information and been approved for UI benefits, all that remains is to wait for benefits to arrive. In some states, you’ll receive a check in the mail, although many now offer the option to direct deposit funds into a bank account.
Some states issue a debit card that is mailed out, and once you activate it, you will have access to funds. Future payments will appear in your account and you can access them by using your card like any other debit card, or arrange to have them direct deposited into your bank account. These cards feature an expiration date, so if you have an old one that has expired from a previous instance of unemployment, you may need to wait for a new one to arrive.
According to the Federal Department of Labor, you should receive your first payment within 2-3 weeks of filing, but due to the high volume of new applications for UI benefits (over 10 million in March alone), you should probably expect delays.