Unemplyment Benefits During COVID-19 VIDEO with Michele Morris, PLS volunteer attorney & employment law specialist.
Last updated 4/14/2020
The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact Pisgah Legal Services or a private attorney if you need to speak with an attorney regarding your specific situation. You can apply online for Pisgah Legal at www.pisgahlegal.org/free-legal-assistance or call 1-800-489-6144.
If you have questions about securing unemployment compensation, please check the resources on this page. If you need information on your rights as an employee, click here. If you need legal advice about an employment-related matter, you can apply to Pisgah Legal for help online at www.pisgahlegal.org/free-legal-assistance or call 800-489-6144.
Qualifying for Unemployment Insurance during COVID-19
You may qualify for unemployment insurance related to COVID-19 if, because of the virus, you lost your job, had your hours reduced, can’t work because of a medical condition, or are following direct quarantine orders. There are also some situations in which you may qualify if you resigned or you were fired for not following internal
rules. If you are not sure, apply.
- You must be a U.S. citizen or legally present with work authorization (including persons with DACA and TPS) in order to qualify for benefits.
- There is no waiting period and no work search requirement to get unemployment benefits under these circumstances.
- Health care providers, emergency responders, and employees of some employers with fewer than 25 employees may not qualify.
- If you take job-protected leave, you have the right to return to the same or equivalent position with the same employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.
If you are getting paid leave through your employer, you must use that leave before you will receive unemployment. Start the unemployment application before using up your paid time off, so the application will be in process.
Where can I get information on Unemployment Insurance Benefits?
Check back on our website for updates and the NC Division of Employment Services website for up to date information on how the Division of Employment Services (DES) is administering unemployment claims during COVID-19.
Am I eligible for benefits?
State: Typically, Unemployment Insurance Benefits in NC are only available to individuals that are unemployed due to no fault of their own and who earned enough wages at employers that paid into the Unemployment Insurance Benefits system.
Federal: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) is available to individuals not otherwise eligible for state Unemployment Insurance Benefits who are unemployed due to certain COVID-19-related reasons.
Here are some common reasons your employment may have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19):
- Your employer cut your hours/laid you off because the business is closed/has reduced hours
- Your employer told you to stay home because you traveled to a country with a high rate of infection
- You cannot work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine, even though your employer is still open
- You cannot work because you cannot get childcare and schools/daycares are closed
If you are unsure whether you would be eligible for unemployment benefits, you should apply at www.des.nc.gov.
How do I apply?
1) Apply online at www.des.nc.gov or call DES at 1-888-737-0259
2) File a claim
3) Once you have applied you will need to start completing weekly certifications (you need to file even if there has been no decision in your case). To find out more on how to file your weekly certifications go to https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment/file-your-weekly-certification.
You can apply for state Unemployment Insurance Benefits online at www.des.nc.gov or by phone at 1-888-737-0259. DES recommends that you apply online because the telephone system is overwhelmed with calls. If you apply online, it is best if you use a computer. DES’s system is not yet set up to process PUA claims; individuals are encouraged to wait until it is to apply—DES estimates it will be ready to process these claims by late April.
- Video on How to Create an Online Account with DES
- Instructions on How to Create an Online Account
- Fact Sheet on Applying for Unemployment Insurance Benefits
I am having problems applying
If you have previously created an online account, you must log back into that account, you cannot create a new account. For issues with online accounts or applications, complete a DES Customer Contact Form
You can also get assistance with your online account at DES FAQs on Online Account Help.
How much will I receive in Unemployment Benefits?
The maximum benefit an individual can receive in North Carolina is $350. The formula generally aims to provide an individual with half of their average weekly salary, up to the max of $350.
The minimum an individual can receive in state Unemployment Insurance Benefits is $15 per week; the minimum for federal PUA is generally half of the state’s average weekly benefit amount.
What about the $600 supplement?
The CARES Act provides a weekly $600 supplement to unemployment recipients, which should be issued to North Carolina residents receiving state Unemployment Insurance Benefits or federal PUA benefits.
This supplement is available through July 31, 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor has indicated that this supplement should be issued to individuals receiving at least $1.00 in weekly benefits (if you earn too much while claiming unemployment in a given week, you may not receive a benefit that week, including the $600 supplement).
The $600 supplement is paid on top of your normal weekly benefit and does not reduce or replace your weekly benefit. It supposed to be paid on a flat basis—it should not matter how much you earned in the past.
How long can I get benefits?
State: North Carolina currently provides a maximum of 12 weeks of unemployment benefits. The CARES Act provides a 13-week extension of North Carolina’s benefits. Individuals that have exhausted state benefits and the CARES Act extension may be eligible for federal PUA benefits.
Federal: The PUA program provides a maximum of 39 weeks of benefits but is available only through December 31, 2020. This total is offset by any weeks an individual received regular state Unemployment Insurance Benefits.
What if I’m still working?
You may be eligible even if you are not fully unemployed. Earnings while claiming benefits must be reported and may impact the benefit amount you receive. If you are unsure whether you would be eligible for unemployment benefits, you should apply at www.des.nc.gov.
Generally, earnings up to 20% of your weekly benefit amount will not reduce your benefit; earnings in excess of 20% of your weekly benefit amount will reduce your benefit dollar-for-dollar, potentially reducing your benefit to $0.
If an individual earns more than their benefit amount and 20% earnings allowance in a week, they will not get a benefit or $600 federal supplement for that week.
Does my immigration status effect my eligibility for benefits?
Generally, to be considered “able and available” for work, an individual must have work authorization.
Get more information here: Immigration Status and Unemployment Benefits:
Generally, if a claim has been denied, you have ten (10) days to file a protest to request review by an adjudicator.
If you disagree with the adjudicator’s decision, you have thirty (30) days to file an appeal to request an Appeal Referee hearing.
The fastest way to file an appeal is online at https://des.nc.gov/appeals/file-appeal
Your determination notice should include information on where and how to file your appeal. Once your appeal has been filed, a hearing with an appeals referee will be scheduled.
If you disagree with the Appeal Referee’s decision, you have ten (10) days to file an appeal to the Board of Review.
If you want to appeal the Board of Review decision, you have a right to file an appeal in NC state courts. If you are denied unemployment benefits, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.
If you are an employee and need additional help or are denied benefits for any reason, please contact Pisgah Legal Services, apply online 24/7 or apply by phone, Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm, 828-253-0406 or 1-800-489-6144
Resources for Employees Applying for Unemployment due to COVID-19
I am an employer with questions:
DID YOU KNOW?
Qualifying for Unemployment
Insurance during COVID-19
You may qualify for unemployment insurance related to COVID-19 if, because of the virus, you lost your job, had your hours reduced, can’t work because of a medical condition, or are following direct quarantine orders. There are also some situations in which you may qualify if you resigned or you were fired for not following internal rules. If you are not sure, apply.
You must be a U.S. citizen or legally present with work authorization (including persons with DACA and TPS) in order to qualify for benefits.
There is no waiting period and no work search requirement to get unemployment benefits under these circumstances.
All applications during the COVID-19 crisis must be filed online or by phone: https://des.nc.gov or 1-888-737-0259.
Has your application for unemployment benefits been denied or delayed? Apply for legal help from Pisgah Legal online at www.pisgahlegal.org/free-legal-assistance/ or by phone at 1-800-489-6144.
To file a claim with a government agency or to seek information on the following issues, contact the resources below:
The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact Pisgah Legal Services or a private attorney if you need to speak with an attorney regarding your specific situation. You can apply online for Pisgah Legal at www.pisgahlegal.org/free-legal-assistance or call 828-253-0406.