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How to Get Unemployment Even If You’re Working

Illustration for article titled How to Get Unemployment Even If Youre Working

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

If the economic impacts of the pandemic put you out of a job this spring, you’re probably scraping by with a mix of your state’s unemployment benefits plus an extra $600 weekly payment thanks to the CARES Act. But what happens to those benefits if you go back to work—especially if you’re only able to work a fraction of your hours?

If you’re in this predicament, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. Every state offers it, though the rules vary from state to state. In general, you must make less money per week than you would if you received your state’s unemployment benefit for being completely out of work, according to CNBC. You may also be eligible if your employer is offering a worksharing option.

You can’t have chosen to cut your own hours; rather, your reduction in working hours (and pay) must be due to your employer’s staffing needs in lieu of laying you off completely. You must be willing and able to work more hours, just unable to actually get those hours due to circumstances beyond your control.

For instance, here’s how it works in Georgia, where the maximum weekly unemployment benefit is $365:

Partial unemployment insurance claims may be filed by employers for full-time employees who work less than full-time during a pay period due to lack of work only. The employees must still be attached to the employer and must have earned wages that do not exceed the weekly benefit amount plus $50.00.

Here’s how it works in Arizona:

When filing your mandatory weekly claim you must report all earnings, and earnings in excess of $30 are deducted from the weekly benefit amount. Note, you must receive at least $1 in benefits in order to qualify for the additional $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payment.

For example, if you qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount of $240 and you receive $180 in earnings for a week, provided you met the other weekly eligibility requirements, you would receive $90 + the $600 FPUC payment for that weekly claim. If you receive at least $240 in earnings for a week, you will not be eligible for any benefits for that week.

If you’re already enrolled in your state’s unemployment insurance system, it may recognize your work situation the next time you file your weekly claim and adjust your payment accordingly, without much extra effort on your part. But if you haven’t filed for benefits before or live in a place that has a notoriously difficult unemployment system, you may have to reenroll or speak to a staffer who can guide you.

Even with this benefit, you may not make exactly what you used to on a normal schedule. But it goes without saying that getting $600 plus a portion of your state’s unemployment benefits right now is a lot better than receiving only a portion of your state’s usual payment. But if you’re working only limited hours now as your state navigates strategies for reopening, you could still get a few weeks of federal and state benefits to help you make ends meet.

Check your state’s unemployment insurance website for specific details. You can find your state’s website in this directory.


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