Legally Brief: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Unemployment Relief

Expanded Unemployment Assistance

  • The new law makes major changes to unemployment assistance, increasing the benefits and broadening who is eligible. States will still continue to pay unemployment to people who qualify, and as usual that amount varies state by state, as does the amount of time people are allowed to claim it.
  • The new CARES ACT adds $600 per week from the federal government on top of whatever base amount a worker receives from the state. That boosted payment will last for four months.
    • For example, if an out-of-work person is receiving the national average of about $340 per week, under the new federal program their take-home pay will be $940.
  • The CARES ACT also adds 13 weeks of unemployment insurance. People nearing the maximum number of weeks allowed by their state would get an extension. New filers would also be allowed to collect the benefits for the longer period.
  • Self-employed and freelancers: typically, self-employed people, freelancers and contractors can’t apply for unemployment. This law creates a new, temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programthrough the end of this year to help people who lose work as a direct result of the public health emergency.
  • Part-time workers are eligible for benefits, but the benefit amount and how long benefits will last depend on your state. They are also eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit.
  • If you’ve received a diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms or are seeking a diagnosis — and you’re unemployed, partly unemployed or cannot work as a result — you will be covered. The same goes if you must care for a member of your family or household who has received a diagnosis
  • If you rely on a school, a day care or another facility to care for a child, elderly parent or another household member so that you can work — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus — you are eligible.
  • People who are unable to work because they are ordered to quarantine are covered.
  • If you were about to start a new job but now can’t because of the COVID-19 outbreak, you are still eligible for benefits. You will also be covered if you were immediately laid off from a new job and did not have a sufficient work history to qualify for benefits under normal circumstances.


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