The CARES Act signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020, gives states the option of extending unemployment compensation to independent contractors and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits. Please contact your state’s unemployment insurance office at the website or phone number provided below to learn more about the availability of these benefits where you live.
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provided additional flexibility for state unemployment insurance agencies and additional administrative funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27. It expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits. For more information, please refer to the resources available below.
How Do I Apply?
To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, claims may be filed in person, by telephone, or online.
- You should contact your state's unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.
- Generally, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, the state unemployment insurance agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states.
- When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.
- Find the contact information for your state's unemployment office to start your claim.
- UIPL 25-20: Benefit Accuracy Measurement (BAM) Program Operations in Response to the Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic
- UIPL 24-20: Temporary Changes to the Federal-State Extended Benefits (EB) Program in Response to the Economic Impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic Emergency
- UIPL 23-20: Program Integrity for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program and the UI Programs Authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Programs
- UIPL 22-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 – Short-Time Compensation (STC) Program Grants
- UIPL 21-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Short-Time Compensation (STC) Program Provisions and Guidance Regarding 100 Percent Federal Reimbursement of Certain State STC Payments
- UIPL 20-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Operating, Financial, and Reporting Instructions for Section 2105: Temporary Full Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week
- UIPL 18-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Emergency Unemployment Relief for State and Local Governmental Entities, Certain Nonprofit Organizations, and Federally-Recognized Indian Tribes
- UIPL 17-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020-Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Program Operating, Financial, and Reporting Instructions
- UIPL 17-20, Change 1: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020-Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Program: Questions and Answers, and Revised Reporting Instructions for the PEUC ETA 227
- UIPL 16-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program Operating, Financial, and Reporting Instructions
- UIPL 16-20, Change 1: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program Operating, Financial, and Reporting Instructions
- UIPL 15-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program Operating, Financial, and Reporting Instructions
- UIPL 15-20, Change 1: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program Reporting Instructions and Questions and Answers
- UIPL 14-20: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 – Summary of Key Unemployment Insurance (UI) Provisions and Guidance Regarding Temporary Emergency State Staffing Flexibility
- UIPL 13-20: Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Division D Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020
- UIPL 13-20, Change 1: Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Division D Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020 (EUISAA) - Reporting Instructions, Modification to Emergency Administrative Grants Application Requirement, and Questions and Answers
- UIPL 10-20: Unemployment Compensation (UC) for Individuals Affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- UIPL 10-20, Change 1: Unemployment Compensation (UC) for Individuals Affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Interpretation of "Between and Within Terms" Denial Provisions in Section 3304(a)(6)(A) of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)
- UIPL 02-16, Change 1: State Responsibilities for Ensuring Access to Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Services, and Information
- UIPL 12-01: Outsourcing of Unemployment Compensation Administrative Functions
- UIPL 12-01, Change 1: Outsourcing of Unemployment Compensation Administrative Functions – Claims Taking
- ET Handbook No. 301 (5th Edition, Change 1), UI Performs: Benefits Timeliness and Quality Nonmonetary Determinations Quality Review
- ET Handbook No. 395 (5th Edition), Revision to the State Operations Handbook for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefit Accuracy Measurement (BAM) Program
- Short-Time Compensation (STC) landing page on WorkforceGPS
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Further Guidance to Help States Improve Unemployment Insurance Program Integrity and Prevent Fraud (June 15, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Offers Fraud Prevention Resources To Enhance Integrity of Unemployment Insurance Programs (May 19, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Provides Guidance on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program to States (May 14, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance and Reminders to States To Ensure Integrity of Unemployment Insurance Programs (May 11, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance Announcing the Availability of $100 Million in Short-Time Compensation Grant Funds for States (May 11, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Provides Additional Guidance to States On the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (May 9, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Provides Additional Guidance and Assistance To States’ Unemployment Insurance Programs (May 4, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Additional Guidance About Short-Time Compensation Program Provisions (May 3, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Announces that all 50 States and the District of Columbia Are Paying Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Benefits (April 29, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Latest Guidance Regarding Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program (April 10, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Guidance on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (April 5, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Guidance on Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (April 4, 2020)
- U.S. Department of Labor Announces New CARES Act Guidance on Unemployment Insurance for States in Response to COVID-19 Crisis (April 2, 2020)
- Statement by Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia on Unemployment Insurance Claims (April 2, 2020)
Frequently Asked Questions
I am an independent contractor. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act?
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, depending on your personal circumstances and how your state chooses to implement the CARES Act. States are permitted to provide Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation. To qualify for PUA benefits, you must not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits and be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of certain health or economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits, which are available retroactively starting with weeks of unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020, and ending on or before December 31, 2020. The amount of benefits paid out will vary by state and are calculated based on the weekly benefit amounts (WBA) provided under a state’s unemployment insurance laws. Under the CARES Act, the WBA may be supplemented by the additional unemployment assistance provided under the Act.
I am about to exhaust my regular unemployment compensation benefits. What kinds of relief does the CARES Act provide for me?
Under the CARES Act states are permitted to extend unemployment benefits by up to 13 weeks under the new Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. PEUC benefits are available for weeks of unemployment beginning after your state implements the new program and ending with weeks of unemployment ending on or before December 31, 2020. The program covers most individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular unemployment compensation under state or federal law and who are able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work as defined by state law. Importantly, the CARES Act gives states flexibility in determining whether you are “actively seeking work” if you are unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restrictions.
In addition, if you have exhausted the 13 weeks of additional benefits available under the PEUC program, you may be eligible to continue receiving benefits under the PUA program. PUA benefits are available for a period of unemployment of up to 39 weeks, meaning that if you have exhausted regular UC and PEUC benefits in fewer than 39 weeks, you may be eligible to receive assistance under PUA for the remaining weeks within PUA’s 39 week period.
My regular unemployment compensation benefits do not provide adequate support given the unprecedented economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Can I expect to receive additional relief?
Yes, depending on how your state chooses to implement the CARES Act. The new law creates the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular UC (including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX), PEUC, PUA, Extended Benefits (EB), Short Time Compensation (STC), Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), and payments under the Self Employment Assistance (SEA) program). This benefit is available for weeks of unemployment beginning after the date on which your state entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor and ending with weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.
I run a nonprofit organization and am a reimbursing employer under my state’s unemployment insurance program. Due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am worried that I may be unable to timely reimburse the state for unemployment benefits it provides to my employees. What should I do?
Contact your state unemployment insurance office to learn what options may be available for delaying reimbursement payments. The CARES Act allows states to provide maximum flexibility to reimbursing employers as it relates to timely payments in lieu of contributions and assessment of penalties and interest. The U.S. Department of Labor will soon be issuing guidance on how states should implement this provision.
Am I Eligible for Regular Unemployment Compensation?
Each state sets its own unemployment insurance benefits eligibility guidelines, but you usually qualify if you:
- Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
- Meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a "base period." (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.)
- Meet any additional state requirements. Find details of your own state’s program.
My employer has remained open because it is essential. I’m not sick, nor is anyone in my household sick. I do not have children or care for someone who cannot care for themselves. However, I’m afraid of getting coronavirus from customers coming to the store, so I quit and filed for unemployment. Can I obtain benefits under the CARES Act?
No. Under the CARES Act, you may be eligible for benefits if you meet one of the circumstances listed in the Act, but none include the scenario described. On these facts, you are not eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) because you do not meet any of the qualifying circumstances.
There are, however, circumstances under the CARES Act in which specific, credible health concerns could require an individual to quit his or her job and thereby make the individual eligible for PUA. For example, an individual may be eligible for PUA if he or she was diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical professional, and although the individual no longer has COVID-19, the illness caused health complications that render the individual objectively unable to perform his or her essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. However, voluntarily deciding to quit your job out of a general concern about exposure to COVID-19 does not make you eligible for PUA. If you believe your employer’s response to the possible spread of COVID-19 creates a serious safety hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
As a general matter, you are likely to be eligible for PUA due to concerns about exposure to the coronavirus only if you have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine as a result of such concerns. For instance, an individual whose immune system is compromised by virtue of a serious health condition, and who is therefore advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine in order to avoid the greater-than-average health risks that the individual might face if he or she were to become infected by the coronavirus will be eligible for PUA if all other eligibility requirements are met.
My employer will let me work from home with pay. However, because my children are out of school and my spouse is working, I need to care for them and it is too difficult to work from home. Under Section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(dd) of the CARES Act, I self-certify that I need my kids to be at school in order for me to be able to work. Do I qualify for PUA?
You may qualify. The CARES Act does provide PUA to an individual who is the “primary caregiver” of a child who is at home due to a forced school closure that directly results from the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, to qualify as a primary caregiver, your provision of care to the child must require such ongoing and constant attention that it is not possible for you to perform your customary work functions at home. For example, if your employer allows you to telework and you are caring for a more mature child who is able to care for him or herself for much of the day, you likely would not qualify for PUA because you are still able to work.
In addition, you should bear in mind that the CARES Act provides PUA only when a child is home because of a school closure that is a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. A school is not closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, for purposes of 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(dd), after the date the school year was originally scheduled to end. That means that, once the school year is over, parents should rely on their customary summer arrangements for caring for their children, and will not, absent some other qualifying circumstances, be eligible to receive PUA. If, however, the facility that they rely on to provide summer care for the child is also closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, they may continue to qualify for PUA. Similarly, if there is some other reason under which they qualify for PUA, they will continue to be eligible to receive benefits.
I’m partially employed because I’m a student and work part time doing ride-sharing. Can I certify that I cannot work and get PUA under the CARES Act?
You may be eligible for PUA, depending on your personal circumstances. A gig economy worker, such as a driver for a ride-sharing service, is eligible for PUA provided that he or she is unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work for one or more of the qualifying reasons provided for by the CARES Act. For example, a driver for a ride-sharing service may be forced to quit his or her job if he or she was diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical professional, and although the driver no longer has COVID-19, the illness caused health complications that render the driver objectively unable to perform his or her essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. Similarly, under an additional eligibility criterion established by the Secretary of Labor pursuant to 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(kk), a driver who receives an IRS Form 1099 from the ride-sharing service may qualify for PUA benefits if he or she has been forced to suspend operations as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as if an emergency state or municipal order restricting movement makes continued operations unsustainable. Relatedly, widespread social distancing undertaken in response to guidance from federal, state, or local governments may so severely reduce customer demand for a driver’s services as to force him or her to suspend operations, and thus make the driver eligible for PUA.
I was furloughed by my employer, but they have now reopened and asked me to return to my job. Can I remain on unemployment?
No. As a general matter, individuals receiving regular unemployment compensation must act upon any referral to suitable employment and must accept any offer of suitable employment. Barring unusual circumstances, a request that a furloughed employee return to his or her job very likely constitutes an offer of suitable employment that the employee must accept.
While eligibility for PUA does not turn on whether an individual is actively seeking work, it does require that the individual be unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work due to certain circumstances that are a direct result of COVID-19 or the COVID-19 public health emergency. In the situation outlined here, an employee who had been furloughed because his or her employer has closed the place of employment would potentially be eligible for PUA while the employer remained closed, assuming the closure was a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and other qualifying conditions are satisfied. However, as soon as the business reopens and the employee is recalled for work, as in the example above, eligibility for PUA would cease unless the individual could identify some other qualifying circumstance outlined in the CARES Act.
One of my workers quit because he said he would prefer to receive the unemployment compensation benefits under the CARES Act. Is he eligible for unemployment? If not, what can I do?
No, typically that employee would not be eligible for regular unemployment compensation or PUA. Eligibility for regular unemployment compensation varies by state but generally does not include those who voluntarily leave employment. Similarly, to receive PUA, an individual must be ineligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law, or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, and satisfy one of the eligibility criteria enumerated in the CARES Act, as explained in Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 16-20. There are multiple qualifying circumstances related to COVID-19 that can make an individual eligible for PUA, including if the individual quits his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19. Quitting to access unemployment benefits is not one of them. Individuals who quit their jobs to access higher benefits, and are untruthful in their UI application about their reason for quitting, will be considered to have committed fraud.
If desired, employers can contest unemployment insurance claims through their state unemployment insurance agency’s process.
If I am eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, do I need to first apply for unemployment insurance?
States must have a process for determining that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) applicants are ineligible for regular unemployment benefits, which may not include filing a regular claim as a first step. States are not required to take and adjudicate a full claim for regular unemployment insurance benefits to meet this requirement. While states are not prohibited from taking a full claim, to facilitate expedited claims processing the U.S. Department of Labor has discouraged states from doing so. Individuals should apply using the state’s PUA application process and, in states that have not yet established that process, must wait until it is established.
What is an offer of suitable employment and how is it connected to unemployment insurance eligibility?
Most state unemployment insurance laws include language defining suitable employment. Typically, suitable employment is connected to the previous job’s wage level, type of work, and the claimant’s skills.
Refusing an offer of suitable employment (as defined in state law) without good cause will often disqualify individuals from continued eligibility for unemployment compensation.
For example, if an individual’s former employer calls the individual back to work after having temporarily laid the individual off for reasons related to COVID-19, the individual would very likely have to accept the offer to return to work, or jeopardize his or her eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits, absent some extenuating circumstance, such as if the individual tested positive for COVID-19. The job an individual held before the spread of COVID-19 will constitute, in the vast majority of cases, suitable employment for purposes of unemployment insurance eligibility.
What can an employer do if it believes an unemployment insurance claimant has refused an offer of suitable employment?
Nearly all states have processes for employers to submit documentation that an offer of suitable employment was refused by an unemployment insurance claimant. Please contact your state unemployment insurance agency for additional information.
What can the claimant do if he or she believes a job offer is not for suitable employment?
If a state raises an issue of failure to accept suitable employment, the state unemployment insurance agency must provide the claimant with an opportunity to provide his or her side of the story and to rebut any evidence provided to the state before making a final determination.
Most state laws allow for refusal of suitable employment for good cause, which is defined in state law. Criteria for good cause may include, but are not limited to, the degree of risk to an individual’s health, safety, and morals; the individual’s physical fitness, prior training, experience, and earnings; the length of unemployment and prospects for securing local work in a customary occupation; and the distance of the available work from the individual’s residence.
Claimants may file an appeal if they disagree with a state’s determination regarding suitable work. Please contact your state unemployment insurance agency for additional information.
Where Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?
Unemployment insurance is a joint state-federal program that provides cash benefits to eligible workers. Each state administers a separate unemployment insurance program, but all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law.
Please see the map and list below to find the contact information for your state in order to apply for Unemployment Benefits.
Find Your State Unemployment Insurance Office
State Unemployment Insurance Offices