If you've had a hard time getting your unemployment insurance benefits from the government lately, you're far from the only one. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, record numbers of Americans face unemployment, many for the first time. Navigating that system can be overwhelming and frustrating at the best of times. Here are some quick links and resources to make finding your way to the money you're eligible for easier.
If you are an employer, visit the North Carolina Department of Commerce COVID-19 Information for Employers hub for more information on how employees claiming unemployment affect your business.
How to claim unemployment
Visit North Carolina's helpful guide to applying for unemployment benefits for guidelines on the documents you need, what to expect as you file your claim, and how to proceed with unemployment benefits going forward. Because of the pandemic, this includes W-2 workers and the self-employed, freelancers, gig workers, and 1099-independent contractors, as well as those who qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may experience delays applying for unemployment because of volume, but keep at it.
Create an account if you don't have one to begin the application process; otherwise, sign in to your existing account. Onscreen instructions will walk you through it all. Translations are available in Spanish, French, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Hmong, Korean, and Russian.
If you need to speak to someone or apply over the phone, call the Customer Call Center at (888) 737-0259 with questions about benefits and for assistance with unemployment insurance claims, signing in, or password resets.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance line is available at (866) 847-7209. Its hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
In addition to unemployment payments from the state, the federal government will distribute $600 alongside each disbursal through July 25, 2020. Benefits can last for 26 weeks; an additional 13 weeks of benefits are available through the federal CARES Act. You don't need to apply separately for these benefits, and all benefits should be retroactive to your first week of unemployment. Because of the pandemic, you don't have to prove that you're looking for work each week you recertify.
Who is eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Those who don't qualify for regular unemployment benefits can still get PUA if they are diagnosed with, experiencing symptoms of, or affected directly by COVID-19, including:
- A member of the individual's household has been diagnosed with COVID-19
- The individual is providing care for a family member or member of the household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
- A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 emergency, and the school or care is required for the individual to work
- The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a COVID-19 quarantine or because a healthcare professional has advised him or her to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns
- The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19
- The individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19
- The individual has quit his/her job or was laid off as a direct result of COVID-19
- The individual's place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19
Learn more about North Carolina's PUA program and get questions answered at the state's online PUA FAQ.