This is no doubt a difficult time for many individuals and their families both personally and financially. In the midst of COVID-19, more than 10 million individuals applied for jobless benefits in March 2020. While the federal relief package may provide some reprieve, here’s what you need to know about filing for benefits if you are laid off or furloughed.
1. Where Do I Start?
The Virginia Employment Commission is the place to apply for your benefits. They offer an online application as well as a phone number at their VEC Customer Contact Center. Due to COVID-19, their page is being frequently updated.
This is a good time to check in with your current financial situation. Do you have emergency funds or liquid assets you can use? If necessary, are you able to tap into your retirement fund? Practical Accounting Solutions can help you find answers to these questions if you need some guidance!
2. Unemployment Insurance
Unemployment insurance is a state insurance program that pays out when you lose your job. In response to COVID-19, the Federal Government has passed the CARES Act to provide support. The CARES Act is for individuals who are not eligible under standard state unemployment insurance claims. The state of Virginia is still awaiting final orders from the United States Department of Labor in regards to the Pandemic Unemployment Act (PUA) to help 1099 and Gig workers. After receiving guidance, the VEC will implement a program for taking PUA claims and paying out benefits.
3. What is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?
If you work for a small business and are being laid off or furloughed, you may want to ask them if they have applied for the Paycheck Protection Program. This program is for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees that have been affected by COVID-19.
4. How Do I Apply For Benefits?
This video from the VEC Outlines how to File for Your Initial Unemployment Insurance.
A few things to note here:
You must file a weekly claim for each week. The VEC recommends you file your unemployment insurance application on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday of each week you remain unemployed and need the payment for the previous week.
Complete your weekly UI payment request here or by calling 1-866-832-2363. The VEC calling hours are Monday-Friday from 8:15AM-4:30PM or Saturdays between 8AM-12PM.
If you need to call about a continuing claim, call this number instead: 1-800-897-5630.
5. What Happens to My Health Insurance?
It depends. If you’ve been furloughed, you will likely still have your health insurance. Contact your employer about how to make health insurance contributions while you don’t have a paycheck. If you’ve been laid off, your benefits may end. The federal program COBRA offers aid for situations like this, or you can also purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
6. How Do I Pay My Mortgage?
There has been a nationwide halt of foreclosures and evictions for home mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or the two government-controlled companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, protections are not currently offered to individuals with loans not backed by the government. Virginia has banned evictions until at least the end of April with bills and possibly additional fees due when the bans are lifted. The National Consumer Law Center has a list of places that have eviction bans as well as advice for those struggling to pay mortgage or rent.
7. Additional Resources
Below is a list of additional resources directly from the Virginia Employment Commission that may answer any additional questions you may have:
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