Laid off due to coronavirus? Here's how to file for unemployment

Emily Pandise

Right now, jobless claims are through the roof. Last week, more than 3 million Americans filed for unemployment and that number is expected to rise.

Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, says it’s your right to claim these benefits. “There is absolutely no reason to delay,” she told TODAY. “People are pulling back spending appropriately to save lives ... the things we can’t let slip, like necessities, like rent, it’s essential that those things remain in the economy.”

If you’ve been laid off recently, you can claim unemployment benefits to help offset the loss of your paycheck. Here’s what you need to know.

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Eligibility rules have been updated due to coronavirus

The federal government has mandated that if an employer has stopped operations due to coronavirus, if you’re quarantined, or if you can’t work to care for a family member, you are likely eligible for unemployment.

Check with your state government for any changes — and file online

Filing for unemployment is different state by state. You’ll have to go to your state website and search for “unemployment” to find the right page (or just Google your state name and “unemployment”). You’ll likely need your social security number, your driver’s license or state issued ID, and proof of income.

For example, in New York, the first thing you need to do is to create a login — just like you would on any other website.

Because of the coronavirus impact, New York is waiving the typical seven-day waiting period for unemployment benefits. You can file as soon as you are laid off.

Once you log on, you enter your social security number — your state may already have your employer information tied to your number.

Good Cents

There are going to be a lot of questions thrown at you, but they’re not hard. Most of them are about other sources of income you may have.

Once you’ve filed your initial claim, you will need to check in and claim your benefits every week to continue receiving that check. These updates may be online, by mail, or in person. There are different requirements for different states, but most benefits are expected to pay out within three to six weeks.

Remember, this process will vary state to state, New York is just one example. Check out your state’s labor website to get more specific information.

If your site crashes or there are delays, keep trying. Shierholz emphasized how important these benefits are for individuals and our collective economic health. “If you’re frustrated, just take a break and come back to it. It’s just really important,” she said. “This is a crisis.”