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 March 30, 2020

Coronavirus: Unemployment Considerations

Unemployed man looking stressed at his computer desk

Navigating Your Unemployment Options

The COVID-19 outbreak has left many suddenly out of work, with no options to find a new job so long as the country remains on lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease. Finding yourself unemployed at a time when anxieties are running high and economic prospects are dismal can induce a panic around paying your bills and staying in your home, which is why expanded unemployment benefits are a crucial lifeline. Whether you’ve had experience applying for benefits or are going through the process for the first time, there are questions about eligibility and requirements in our new, hopefully temporary, reality.

Frequently Asked Unemployment Questions Amid Coronavirus Crisis:


Unemployment Requirements

What is required to get unemployment benefits?

Employment benefits and benefits vary from state to state. So to determine your eligibility, look at the requirements in your state. Broadly speaking, there are two basic guidelines for eligibility, according to the Department of Labor:

  • You are out of work through no fault of your own; and
  • You meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked at your previous job

While there is generally an assumption that if you quit your job you are ineligible for unemployment benefits, you may be eligible depending on your reasons for quitting; if you gave notice because you didn’t like the work, you will almost certainly be ineligible. But if you had to quit because of a hostile work environment or underlying health issues, you might be deemed eligible.

The legislation passed to deal with the economic downturn due to COVID-19 has instituted new rules to expand unemployment benefit eligibility during the crisis. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,  people out of work due to COVID-related shutdowns or quarantines are eligible for unemployment benefits, even if they’re still technically employed. Many states have also waived the typical one week waiting period for applicants.

Finally, most states also require you to be actively seeking employment to qualify however the relaxation of some of the rules with the lockdown are being made.

What documents are needed to apply for unemployment benefits?

When filing for unemployment,  pay and employer information are needed, as well as proof of identity that will normally include a Social Security card as proof of your identity. From there, you file an initial claim and provide additional information required by the state to complete the application process. The process can be handled either online or over the phone, although, with the huge influx of applications, many states’ unemployment websites are crashing, and staggered application schedules have been introduced to try and alleviate the problem.

What is required to keep receiving unemployment benefits?

Once you start receiving benefits, it’s not as simple as a direct deposit that continues until you’ve found work. States normally require beneficiaries to follow a weekly process to reaffirm that they are still out of work, still able to work and still actively looking for a job.

With our new pandemic situation, expect that many of the usual requirements may be altered temporarily but do ask questions and do not make assumptions in order to ensure your benefits continue. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) has provided many changes that impact unemployment benefits including additional compensation and weeks of eligibility.

Can I work part-time and still get unemployment benefits?

You don’t need to be fully unemployed to get at least some unemployment benefits.

Those working part-time may qualify for partial unemployment, provided that they meet the requirements. If working part-time is your only alternative to being laid off from your job, or you’re only able to find part-time work after losing your full-time job and seeking full-time employment, you may also qualify for partial unemployment benefits. However, if you’re working part-time by choice, with the option available to work full-time, you would likely not qualify for unemployment benefits.

As in other cases, new federal laws passed in response to the coronavirus have loosened restrictions on benefits to aid those partially or fully out of work due to closures and quarantines, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment programs to see what measures they may have enacted.

For many, unemployment insurance is the only thing that can help them put food on the table while their jobs and their lives are shut down. Navigating the unemployment process can be tricky, particularly if you have questions about your eligibility. With a LegalShield membership, you can talk with an attorney about your employment questions to determine how to apply for much-needed relief.

Self Employment and Contractors

Can I  get unemployment benefits if I am Self-Employed or an Independent Contractor?

Those who are self-employed or independent contractors including gig workers may be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits due to changes made by the CARES Act. Someone who had to quit their job due to the coronavirus may also be eligible for benefits. Even individuals who are not already eligible for state programs, but were able to work but for the crisis, may be eligible for a set amount of unemployment compensation.

Appealing Unemployment Decisions

My unemployment benefits application was denied. Can I appeal?

Once you’ve submitted your application for unemployment benefits, the state will review the application and decide whether to approve or reject it. If your application is rejected, you can appeal the decision through a process laid out by your state agency. Once your appeal has been submitted, you will be given the chance to make your case for your application, with any relevant evidence. Applicants should be aware that if their application was denied because they quit their job without sufficient “good cause,” or because they were fired from their previous position due to misconduct, their appeal may have less chance of success than, say, one for a technicality on time spent in a job. Many states conduct these hearings on the telephone so these may continue even with any restrictions or lockdown.

If you have a coronavirus-related unemployment claim that was previously denied, you may be eligible under the new provisions outlined above; be sure to check with your state unemployment agency or a LegalShield attorney for more clarity.

My unemployment benefits have been revoked. How can I get them back?

It may be the case that you begin receiving unemployment benefits only to have them suspended or revoked. There are a number of reasons this might happen: there may be questions as to your initial eligibility due to information not provided on your application, you may be found to not be meeting the standards for continued benefits by failing to actively look for a job, or any number of other reasons that the agency would deem your claims no longer valid.

Due to the recent changes related to the coronavirus, you may be eligible under the new provisions. Be sure to check with your state unemployment agency or a LegalShield Provider Attorney for more clarity.

Declining Employment Opportunities

If I get a job offer and decline, will I lose my benefits?

If you’re getting unemployment benefits, you might feel obligated to accept any job offer that comes in to avoid losing those benefits, regardless of the attractiveness of the job or your fit for the position.

With the dearth of hiring at the moment and the relative risk that many of those jobs may present of contracting COVID-19, it’s worth inquiring with your state unemployment offices to check if the standards on seeking employment have been loosened temporarily.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.


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