Coronavirus and Beyond: Understanding Unemployment Benefits

As the COVID-19 outbreak brings American life to a halt, many employers are ceasing operations temporarily and placing employees on furlough or terminating them altogether. In the fallout, unemployment insurance will be a crucial backup for many.

Unemployment insurance, also known as unemployment benefits, is a type of state-provided insurance that pays out if you meet certain eligibility requirements after losing your job. You do not receive unemployment benefits if you quit your job, are self-employed, or fired for cause.

As a joint program between individual state governments and the federal government, officials on both sides are currently considering ways to expedite the unemployment application process. In this rapidly changing environment, lawmakers are attempting to increase flexibility and get funds into the hands who need it as quickly as possible. Congress has already addressed some of these issues, but more is needed and expected soon.

Here is what employees and employers need to know about how the program works and how they can apply for benefits.


Each state administers its own program, but they all follow federal guidelines. The difference lies in eligibility rules, how much a person has worked, and other variables.

An employee can be on unpaid leave or terminated and still qualify, in many cases. Many states are currently deciding how to provide unemployment insurance to employees of a company that stopped operating due to coronavirus or to those who have been quarantined, for example.

Unemployment benefits may also be available to employees who are still technically employed, but unable to work because they have been furloughed or quarantined. In these cases, the employer is unable to pay workers, but expects them to return to work at some point.

Unemployment benefits can last for as long as 26 weeks, though some states pay for a shorter duration. Extended benefits will likely be available once regular benefits have been exhausted.

Unemployment does not cover full pay. Typically, workers can expect to receive 45% of what they ordinarily earn up to a certain maximum. Workers should count on a one-week delay, possibly longer, before benefits start. However, some states are beginning to waive waiting periods to expedite the process. To file a claim, the employee should visit their state’s unemployment website.

More to Come

The US Congress is currently working on additional changes to provide relief for workers and their families. Check back with Netchex for updates about unemployment benefits as they become available.

As the world seeks to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), businesses like yours are working diligently to remain in operation, adapt their policies, and ensure the safety of their employees. Netchex is here to help you accomplish all of this and more. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Netchex or its clients. This post is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

Elevate your performance management and employee outreach with NetEngage