How to Tell if You Qualify for COVID-19 Relief Assets from the Government

Michael Bordonada
Published Jun 2, 2024


There's no question that COVID-19 has impacted almost everyone at this point, whether directly or indirectly. Some have had the misfortune of catching the virus and even dying from it, while others may have had the virus and never even suspected it! Although death projections are lowering by the day, many businesses remain closed, either voluntarily or under state law or executive order. These restrictions are likely to ease up soon, helping put more Americans back working, which would be the most ideal solution for everyone.

However, not everyone will be so lucky. With record unemployment rates and a crashing stock market, it can feel hopeless sometimes. However, the federal government can help many people. Additionally, many state unemployment programs can help in the interim. Federal relief bills combined with traditional unemployment support should be enough for most in the short-term. Here are some new facts you'll need to know before you make an unemployment claim.
 

New Gig Worker Protections


The term "gig worker" is often used interchangeably with "person who is self-employed". In essence, it means any person who receives a 1099 form at the end of each calendar year. Generally, these people are required to pay "self employment tax", meaning they must pay double the Social Security and Medicare taxes that those employed through traditional jobs must pay. However, this requirement could soon vanish per federal rules.

For the first time in American history, almost every state is including these workers in their unemployment programs. Given that between 35 and 40% of workers are freelance or "gig" workers, this proposition only makes sense. Even the "deep red" states, like Tennessee, have passed emergency orders that require unemployment programs to extend to everyone who was working and had their jobs impacted by government orders related to COVID-19.

You will need to check your individual state's laws, but most states have also suspended the "search for three jobs a week" requirement that they previously had for unemployed people. Only states that have received a "Major Disaster Declaration" signed by President Trump usually do this, since that money comes directly from the federal government. However, the amount of money provided by states for unemployment can be lackluster, which is why this next section is particularly important.
 

Federal Relief Packages


As you likely know, a stimulus bill has been passed that gives lower and middle class income people a break. In general, people will be receiving $1,200 each. However, this amount is nearly nothing, especially for those who live in higher cost states.

However, much more money is on the horizon for those who are unemployed directly because of COVID-19. Unfortunately, those who voluntarily quit jobs, even for safety reasons, are not eligible for most forms of unemployment benefits. Most states have benefits for those who have worked at least three quarters of the last twelve months. However, there are exceptions, especially for the so-called "gig workers".

On top of state-level benefits, which vary quite widely, those affected also can now receive bolstered unemployment benefits. Remember, there is never a case where anyone can legitimately receive more money than they earned before, contrary to some false information spreading on social media. The most you can get under the new federal laws and every state's unemployment laws is 100% of your previous income, though it is usually closer to 75% of your previous income.

You'll need to look up the specific maximum value for your state. Generally, the wealthier the state, the more money per week the maximum is. However, federal relief bills have currently added approximately $600 per person per week for a period of not less than 13 weeks. In other words, for a few months, you'll be eligible to get your state's maximum value plus $600, assuming your total salary was at least that amount. Otherwise, you'll be able to claim your exact salary.
 

Wrapping Up


Remember, these assets are temporary and are coming out of your own tax dollars, so it's better to claim them now than never. These assets are being made available so that those who need money the most do not need to resort to illegal acts, but you'll need to act fast. The quickest way to assess whether you qualify for benefits is to visit your state's unemployment website and running through their automated wizard to check on benefits eligibility.

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