By: Dan Weiss, MSFP 28 April 2020

It is no surprise that COVID-19 has disrupted the work of millions of Americans, whether they be restaurant chefs or waiters, engineers, construction workers, architects, physical therapists, etc. Measures taken to reduce the spread of the virus have resulted in layoffs, reduced hours, and furloughs.

On March 27th Congress passed the CARES Act. A significant portion of the legislation addresses the needs of those experiencing an impact to their employment.

What does the CARES Act do for Unemployed persons?

The CARES act takes a three-pronged approach to offer a safety net:  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – Expands unemployment benefits to individuals who would not ordinarily be eligible. This includes self-employed individuals and independent contractors e.g. Graphic Design Freelancers, Uber drivers, Airbnb Hosts, etc.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – Offers unemployed individuals an additional $600/week of benefits until July 31, 2020. This has the potential to be beneficial, as some states have an average weekly benefit of less than $400.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance – Increases the amount of time an individual can receive state unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. For most states, this expands the period from 26 to 39 weeks. See this link to see how long your state offers unemployment benefits.  Moreover, benefits are offered for the first week of unemployment, which is not the case under normal circumstances.

What to do if your employment has been affected by COVID-19?

First Step: Determine if you are eligible for benefits

Has COVID-19 caused you to:

  • Work fewer hours?
  • Not work at all?
  • Not work because you are caring for someone (e.g. homeschooling your child)?
  • Not start your new job?

Congress has cast a wide net, so if any of these apply, you most likely qualify.

Second Step: File for unemployment benefits within your state

To apply, follow this link. In the dropdown menu, select your state. You will have the option to file an online application or call via telephone (note: a record number of applications are being submitted, so the sooner you do this the better). Your benefits will depend on how much you earned while working.

Third Step: Ensure you have Health insurance

If you have been furloughed, you should be able to stay on your employer’s plan; however, you may be required to continue paying your part of the premiums. If you are no longer employed, options include enrolling in a family member’s plan, Medicaid, COBRA, or Affordable Care Act (ACA) Insurance.

A family member’s plan might be appropriate if your spouse has insurance through his/her employer or you are under age 26, as you can qualify as a dependent. Medicaid is inexpensive and ideal for those with low income. COBRA offers your previous employer’s plan; however, it can be costly. ACA Insurance is best if you do not qualify for a family member’s plan nor Medicaid, and COBRA is too expensive.


We have all been affected in some way by COVID-19, some more than others. Acting quickly to take advantage of these expanded unemployment benefits can help to successfully manage your finances during this unprecedented and challenging time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about the recent changes to Unemployment Benefits.


Author Image

Dan Weiss, MSFP

Senior Financial Planning Analyst

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