It might be frightening to find yourself unemployed, but it doesn’t have to be devastating. Every state in the USA offers an Unemployment Insurance (UI) to eligible single moms who:
- Are unemployed through no fault of their own
- Meet several state-specific criteria
This weekly financial support, also known as Unemployment Benefits, aims to assist people who are temporarily unemployed because of circumstances out of their control.
I think you’ll be glad to hear that circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic are, of course, out of your control and are therefore likely to qualify you for Unemployment Insurance.
So let’s see if you’re eligible, how you can apply and how much money you’ll be able to claim from your state’s Unemployment Insurance.
Unemployment Insurance for Single Moms
Am I Eligible for Unemployment Insurance?
Each state has its own criteria, but you usually quality if you:
- Have lost your job through no fault of your own. Typically this is due to a lack of available work.
- Have worked and/or earned a certain amount in the “base period” before becoming unemployed. In most states, this period is typically the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.
- Meet any additional state requirements. Find details of the state’s program where you previously worked
Due to the current pandemic, there are several reasons related to COVID-19 that qualify you for UI outside of the normal criteria. Some of these include:
- You or a member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and therefore need to be quarantined.
- You need to care for a member of your household or family who has COVID-19.
- You need to take care of a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or other facility that is closed due to COVID-19.
- Your place of employment is permanently or temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- You had to resign from your job or refuse a new job that did not provide a safe enough environment or adequate accommodations to work from home in the case that you or a family or household member have an increased risk of death or serious illness from contracting COVID-19.
- You have become the main breadwinner for your household since the head of the house has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
How Do I Apply Unemployment Insurance?
You will need to apply for UI from the state where you worked. Each state has its own guidelines and application processes. Look up the state where you previously worked and follow their instructions.
You will need to provide them with the following information:
- Your address, telephone number and Social Security number
- Your employer(s) names, addresses, telephone numbers and employers’ identification numbers (EIN) from the past 18 months
- Dates of previous employment and your earnings (W-2s and pay stubs) from the past 18 months
- Weekly or Biweekly proof that you are actively looking for work opportunities (although this is not being strictly enforced during the pandemic)
Depending on the state, you’ll be able to file your claim in person, by telephone or online.
It usually takes two to three weeks from submitting your claim to receiving your first payout.
How Much Unemployment Insurance Will I Receive?
In normal circumstances, most states offer up to 26 weeks of benefits. For the unemployed worker, this will replace about half of their previous weekly wages up to a maximum weekly benefit amount defined by each state.
Massachusetts currently offers the highest maximum amount of $855 per week for up to 46 weeks. Mississippi is the poorest state offering a maximum of only $235 per week for up to 26 weeks.
Some states also offer added benefits for claimants with dependents.
Massachusetts (again in the lead) pays an extra $25 per week per dependent. Another example is Rhode Island which pays an additional amount equal to 5% of the weekly benefit for each dependent.
Will More Help be Available During the Pandemic?
Yes! Thankfully there have been several extensions and alterations made to UI benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, has extended the availability of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) which now provides an additional $300 per week through to September 6, 2021.
The ARPA has also extended the duration of the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) which provides an extra 29 weeks of benefits to anyone who has exhausted their regular UI benefits.
Unfortunately, several states are intending to end these extended benefits early:
- Ended in June 2021: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia & Wyoming.
- Ending in July 2021: Arizona, Maryland, Louisiana & Tennessee.
Alt Text: American states cutting enhanced unemployment benefits in 2021
But on the upside, four of these states – Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma – are offering ‘back to work’ incentives (once-off payments ranging from $500 to $2000) to encourage workers to accept new jobs.
Connecticut (despite not ending the extended benefits early) also has a similar program, Back to Work CT.
Louisiana’s alternative approach is to increase the state’s weekly maximum unemployment benefit by $28 starting in 2022.
Here are a few sites where you can find additional information about Unemployment Insurance Benefits including state specific application instructions and contact details for the relevant offices.