The jobs numbers keep coming in and it’s far more dire than anyone has yet predicted. An additional 2.5 million jobless claims were filed in May alone, bringing the unemployment rate to more than 18%. In some places it is higher, and those numbers continue to climb every day. The pandemic has taken a toll on workers and businesses alike, shuttering businesses that aren’t essential or safe enough for people to use until the pandemic has passed. Bars and restaurants have been hit especially hard, and many of those businesses will not be able to make a comeback. Unemployment is tricky to navigate for the majority of people who have never needed to do so before, and supporting furloughed and laid off workers is going to continue to be crucial until the economy fully recovers.
Layoffs and furloughs are a little different and require different resources to address. Layoffs are permanent separations from a company with the possibility of being recalled to work. Along with this method of separation, workers also lose any benefits such as health insurance, which means they will need access to COBRA in order to retain their healthcare, of particular importance in a pandemic.
Furloughs are a little different from layoffs. Furloughed employees retain many of their benefits, such as health insurance, during the time they are not reporting for work. They also have the expectation of being called back to work after a given period of time, so their period of joblessness is finite though still unpaid.
There are also other categories of workers who have lost their jobs or some of their income who may qualify for unemployment benefits in their states. Substitute teachers, freelance workers, and others who lack traditional employment structures don’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits, but new rules have allowed them to take advantage of a system they have long been prevented from using. Part time workers and those who had their hours cut have also previously been denied coverage but now also qualify for unemployment benefits in many states.
Most notably, people who had no choice but to quit reporting to work in order to care for children or at-risk adult family members also now qualify for unemployment benefits.
Navigating the unemployment system can be daunting. If you live in one state and work in another, file in the state in which you work. In most places you can file online if you have internet access, but of course if you don’t have internet access or an internet-capable device your options have become severely limited as libraries and coffee shops that typically offer free access have closed down.
Because of the pandemic most states have waived the waiting period to apply for benefits, and the Federal Government is kicking in an additional $600 a month until the end of July.
If you’ve never been unemployed before, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. You will recover from this. Learn more about how to navigate unemployment from the infographic below.