In Part I of our series about what to do if you lose your job or can’t work because of the coronavirus Browne House Law highlighted four new ways to qualify for unemployment benefits in Alabama:
- If you have been temporarily or permanently laid off because of the corona virus;
- If you have been diagnosed with the virus;
- If you are caring for a family member with virus; or
- If you have been quarantined because of the virus.
If you are receiving paid time off like vacation or sick pay you do not qualify. Likewise if you chose not to go to work because you are afraid of catching the virus, you do not qualify.
As the situation develops the state, local, and federal governments have tried to put out more information and clarity about benefits.
If I qualify for benefits, what can I get?
The amount of unemployment benefits you receive would depend on your regular wages and whether you’ve been working long enough. The benefit is a weekly amount from $45 to $275. If your absence from the work force is temporary and due to the corona virus, you can get benefits for up to three weeks.
If your job disappears entirely and you are laid off due to no fault of your own, you can get benefits for a longer period. Until January 1 of this year you could receive benefits for 26 months, but that has been reduced. The number of weeks you can receive unemployment is now capped at 14 to 20 weeks depending on the state’s unemployment rate. If the unemployment rate jumps above 6.5% the number of weeks increase every half a percent until it reaches the cap of twenty weeks.
When can I file my claim?
Monday, Monday, Monday! File a claim starting Monday, March 23rd, 2020. You can either file by telephone or online. The Department of Labor would prefer that you file online as they expect a heavy call volume.
What if I already filed my claim?
If you filed your unemployment compensation claim last week you should still be eligible beginning Monday, March 23rd. Normally when filing a claim you have to wait one week from the last date you worked to qualify for benefits. As of Monday that week waiting period is waived, so presumably you should be eligible March 23rd wether you applied last week or March 23rd. You probably do not have to file a new claim, but wouldn’t hurt to call the Alabama Department of Labor and ask.
What if I’m an independent contractor?
Whether you’re an employee or an independent contractor you are encouraged to apply. In a conference call with the Alabama Secretary of Labor, independent contractors were encouraged to apply for benefits. This means Uber drivers, owner-operators, gig economy workers, and others.
If you are an independent contract and you applied for unemployment compensation due to the corona virus, let us know whether you were approved for benefits. We want to know.