State and federal authorities have made or are on the verge of making a number of changes to the unemployment insurance program that broaden eligibility, boost benefits, eliminate the one-week waiting period for benefits, and extend the time recipients can receive payments.
That means even if you have not been eligible for unemployment benefits in the past, you may be now.
In fact, a bill the House is expected to pass Friday and President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law will create a special Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program that will cover jobless individuals not normally eligible.
That includes independent contractors, people who are self-employed and others who do have a traditional employment situation.
That bill also boosts state unemployment payments by $600 per week.
Complete information about eligibility is available from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, but we have pulled together the basics here.
My company shut down because of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order that non-essential business close. Am I eligible?
Yes. As long as you have earned enough money to qualify, you are eligible for state benefits (see more information below) and the additional federal payment. You are required to stay in touch with your employer during the layoff period so that you can be recalled.
What if my company laid people off before the governor’s order because business just dried up?
Employees are eligible for unemployment if their companies laid them off because of the effects of COVID-19.
What about people in the service industry—like wait staff—whose income is highly dependent on tips?
Anyone who has lost their job related to COVID-19 is eligible—as long as the worker meets the minimum wages (see more information below). The latter could depend, however, on whether your employer included your tips when reporting your earnings to the state. If you apply and do not meet the threshold, you can appeal and provide documentation—such as tax returns and bank deposit records—to help you meet the threshold. You will likely become eligible under the new federal expansion.
What if I still have a job but can’t work because I am in quarantine?
If you are missing work because you are quarantined and are not receiving sick pay or other leave pay, you are eligible under a directive from Gov. Eric Holcomb.
My kids’ school closed and I have to stay home to take care of them. Am I eligible?
Yes, as long as you are not being paid through a leave with your employer. Employees who are missing work because they had to stay home with kids or day care closed are eligible.
What if I’m just scared to go to work, but my company hasn’t told me to stay home.
You probably won’t be eligible under the state program. However, the federal expansion could help. You should apply for benefits through the DWD even if you are unsure.
What if I can’t go into work but I am working at home?
If you are working at home and being paid, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits
You keep mentioning wage eligibility rules. What are they?
They are unfortunately complicated. And your best bet may be to go ahead and apply and let the DWD determine whether you meet the criteria—especially considering the expansion the federal government is implementing.
In general, to qualify under the state program, you must have total wages of at least $4,200 during a specific base period, with at least $2,500 of those wages earned in the last six months of the base period. Your base period includes the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the week you file an initial claim application for benefits.
An additional requirement is that your total wages during your base period must be equal to at least 1.5 multiplied by your wages in the highest quarter of your base period.
You can read more about the base period and eligibility starting on page 6 in the DWD’s claimant handbook.
What if I don’t work for a company? What if I’m part of the “gig” economy?
Self-employed individuals and gig economy workers—such as contractors, delivery drivers, whose income has been cut or eliminated by the pandemic—will be eligible under the federal expansion. Those benefits will mirror the benefits available under the traditional state program.
I was already out of work and now I really can’t find a job. Can I get help?
The federal expansion could provide you with benefits. Check with the DWD and explain your situation in your application.
What are other situations that could make me eligible?
Under the federal expansion, there is a long list of situations that could make you eligible. For example, if you were scheduled to begin a job that was eliminated, you will be eligible. If you or someone in your household is diagnosed, you will be eligible. Those individuals will be required to self-certify they are unable to work because of COVID-19.
How long can I receive benefits?
State benefits last 26 weeks. However, the federal expansion will provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits, for a total of 39 weeks.
Isn’t there a one-week waiting period?
The governor has waived the one-week waiting period, retroactive to March 8. You will receive benefits for the first week you are eligible.
Normally, beneficiaries have to show they are looking for work. Is this still required?
The governor has waived that requirement during the COVID-19 crisis. However, you are still required to be available to work.
How much will I receive?
Traditional state benefits depend on what you were earning in your job, with a maximum of $390 per week.
You can determine your weekly state benefit amount by dividing your total base period wages by 52. Then, multiply that number by 0.47. Your weekly benefit amount should be rounded down to the next whole dollar amount. State benefits can’t exceed $390.
In addition, the federal expansion will provide workers with another $600 per week.