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Unemployment Benefits During COVID-19—FAQs Answered

The employment industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in at least 40 million people unemployed nationwide. The jobless claims in New York State have been added up to more than 2.4 million people.

On June 12th, 2020, NYLAG held a live Q&A discussing unemployment insurance, the CARES ACT, immigration status/eligibility, and more. You can view the pre-recorded video and FAQs below.

Below are some of the FAQs Answered:

Unemployment Insurance/CARES Act

a. Likely, yes. Unless you are receiving paid leave or are able to telework, you are likely eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, either under New York State’s regular UIB program or under the CARES Act, the new federal law extending benefits to workers typically left out of the regular UIB system.

b. Many people who would not usually qualify for unemployment insurance benefits may be eligible for benefits under the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program; for example, independent contractors, workers with little work history, part-time workers, or employees who quit their jobs for reasons directly related to the COVID pandemic.

i. Workers who quit their job due to the COVID pandemic should make their best efforts to keep their jobs before quitting for COVID-related reasons. For example, if you quit because you are afraid of the risks of exposure, you should consider first asking your employer for an accommodation for a leave of absence (if you have an underlying health conditions, ideally with a doctor’s note), or for permission to telecommute (if possible), or to be provided with personal protective equipment and other protective measures on the job.

c. For more information:

i. DOL CARES Act What You Need to Know: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/pdfs/cares-act-need-to-know.pdf

ii. DOL checklist for scenarios where you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/pdfs/pandemic-unemployment-assistance.pdf

iii. DOL flow chart showing process for applying for UI/Cares Act benefits: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/cares-act.shtm

iv. DOL Guidance for self-employed individuals: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/pdfs/self-employed-ui-guide.pdf

a. Likely, yes. Unless you are receiving paid leave or are able to telework, you are likely eligible for unemployment insurance benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, created through the CARES Act.

a. It is very difficult to file a UIB claim right now because of the volume of people trying to apply. You should follow the instructions on the DOL website and apply online.

b. To continue to try to apply by phone, call the Telephone Claim Center, at 1-888-209-8124. Telephone filing hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm.

  • It depends. You may still be eligible to receive benefits if the DOL finds that you had good cause to turn down the job offer. The DOL has made clear that it is not “good cause” to turn down a job because of a “general fear of COVID-19.” See the DOL’s Fact Sheet on this issue here.
  • New York State guidance states that the $600/week Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) increase to Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) payments is counted as unearned income for both Cash Assistance and SNAP, in combination with regular UIB payments.
  • Any retroactive UIB/PUC issued is considered a resource for SNAP in the month it is received, but due to Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, most SNAP households are not subject to a resource test.
  • Retroactive UIB/PUC is also considered a lump-sum payment for Cash Assistance which may make a household ineligible for a period of time.
  • This expansion is especially important for noncustodial parents who are required to make court-ordered child support payments.

For answers on immigration status and benefits eligibility, paid leave and family leave, and work health safety/accommodations, click here.  

For more COVID-19 related resources, click here.

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we are still working hard and our intake lines are open, but please note that our physical office is closed.

During these unprecedented times, we’ve launched a free NY COVID-19 Legal Resources Hotline and compiled the latest legal and financial counseling updates.