Unemployment in the time of COVID-19

We have been getting a lot of calls recently from people who have questions and concerns about Unemployment Benefits. We thought it might be helpful to breakdown what Unemployment Benefits are available right now to North Carolinians. Please remember that this is a very general overview, if you have specific questions related to your situation, please reach out to us at (704) 643-6650.

In broad terms, State Unemployment Insurance Benefits or UI Benefits are the weekly monetary benefits for North Carolinians who are out of work due to no fault of their own. This includes employees who have been "laid off" or "let go" due to COVID. This does not mean that you were separated from work for contracting COVID but rather that your Employer’s business has been reduced as a result of the pandemic. However, in order to qualify for UI benefits, your employment needs to have been subject to the State Unemployment Insurance tax, meaning that your employer has been paying NC UI taxes. This requirement excludes individuals who are independent contractors or self-employed. Keep in mind, some non-profits are additionally not subject to the state UI tax and this may include churches and religious schools. Employees of non-profits would need to be looked at on a case by case basis. The quickest and most efficient way to apply for and track your UI benefits is through the DES Portal.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is a Federal extension of benefits for North Carolinians who have exhausted their 12 weeks of state unemployment benefits. PEUC can provide up to 13 weeks of additional assistance through December 26, 2020. It is important to note that UI Benefits will not automatically convert at the end of your 12 weeks. A separate claim for PEUC must be made.  

Many North Carolinians will unfortunately remain out of work at the end of these additional 13 weeks of assistance. Extended Benefits are federal benefits available for workers who have exhausted their State UI benefits and PEUC benefits. Workers in this category may be eligible for a maximum 6 weeks of additional benefits after October 10, 2020.

Prior to COVID, more and more individuals were finding success working as independent contractors or for themselves. In response to the COVID-19, additional benefit programs were created at the federal level to assist these workers. The benefit you have probably been hearing about the most is PUA or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. These benefits were created as a safety net for people who are unable to work as a direct result of COVID AND are not eligible for UI benefits. This category should cover self-employed individuals and independent contractors. Applying for PUA can also be done through the portal.

What about the extra money that you keep hearing about? North Carolinians who received benefits from any of the above programs may be entitled to FPUC or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation which provided an additional $600 weekly benefit for the period of March 29, 2020 through July 25, 2020. FPUC does not require a separate application. A FEMA-funded program called LWA or Lost Wages Assistance covered the period of July 26, 2020 through September 5, 2020 and provided an additional $300 in weekly benefits. The most recent additional benefit program is the Increased Benefit Amount or IBA which is a state-based program which increased the weekly benefit amount by $50 starting September 6, 2020. According the Department of Employment Security, this benefit is scheduled to end no later then December 26, 2020.

If you feel that you have been unjustly denied any of these state or federal benefits, call us today at 704-643-6650.