Ask Maris: Collecting Unemployment Insurance During Covid-19

What is unemployment insurance? Am I eligible to receive unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance is a monetary benefit paid to certain workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own, and are generally available and able to work. Each state provides unemployment insurance in a slightly different way. Additionally, the federal CARES Act (the stimulus) has greatly expanded access to unemployment insurance by reducing or eliminating many of the traditional requirements workers had to meet. See these fact sheets and frequently asked questions for more information.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

To apply for unemployment benefits, find your state on this site. To be eligible to receive unemployment insurance, you must:

  • Have had valid work authorization during the period you were working; and
  • Have valid authorization for the period during which you are receiving the benefits.

This means undocumented workers are not able to receive unemployment benefits. You may wish to review your state’s guidelines to ensure your eligibility.

Accepting unemployment benefits will not make someone subject to the “public charge” rule.

Do I need to prove that I’m looking for a job while receiving unemployment benefits during the pandemic?

Under normal circumstances, you might need to prove that you’re looking for a job to receive certain public benefits. However, during the Coronavirus pandemic, you do not need to prove “work activity” in order to access unemployment benefits. Some states still require you file weekly certifications while receiving unemployment benefits. Please be advised that this policy will likely change once the pandemic subsides.

What if I’m denied unemployment benefits?

You have 10 to 30 days to appeal the agency’s decision and must do so in writing. You also might be able to access Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) instead, a special benefit for certain workers not traditionally covered by unemployment insurance. For more information, contact your state unemployment insurance office.

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