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Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits in West Virginia FAQ

Get answers to common questions about new unemployment programs for those who have lost work due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits in West Virginia FAQ

Updated: 2020-08-03 by

1. What are coronavirus unemployment benefits?

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

7. Can I collect unemployment if I am quarantined or have symptoms of COVID-19?

8. Can I collect unemployment if I can’t work because my child’s school or care facility was closed due to COVID-19?

9. Where can I find the latest information on how West Virginia is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

1. What are coronavirus unemployment benefits?

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Employment Security Act (the CARES Act) created several new unemployment programs, designed specifically to reach those who have lost work due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus. These programs include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which makes benefits available to those who wouldn't qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, including the self-employed, gig workers, those who have already used up their state benefits, and those who don't meet the work history eligibility requirement in their state. Learn more about the PUA program in West Virginia, including how the West Virginia Department of Commerce will calculate benefits, in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Unemployment Benefits for Contractors, Gig Workers, and Self-Employed Workers in West Virginia
  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), which was providing $600 more per week in benefits to unemployed workers, whether they are receiving traditional unemployment benefits or pandemic unemployment assistance. However, this program expired at the end of July 2020, and Congress and the White House are still arguing over whether and how to extend it. Although the President has signed an executive memorandum to increase benefits again by $300 or $400, only a handful of the many states that have applied to participate in this program have actually started paying out these additional benefits. Stay tuned. 
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who are still out of work when their state benefits run out. 

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

You must apply for unemployment benefits at the West Virginia Department of Commerce, whether you are out of work due to the coronavirus public health emergency or for any other reason. Even though the new unemployment benefit programs to address COVID-19 job losses are federally funded, they are administered by state unemployment departments.

Because of the huge increase in unemployment claims due to COVID-19, many states are adopting special procedures to apply for benefits, such as schedules that require you to apply on a particular day of the week based on the first letter of your last name. Visit the website of the West Virginia Department of Commerce to get the latest information on how to apply; West Virginia also has a resource page on coronavirus and unemployment benefits.

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

Most likely, yes. The CARES Act, which Congress passed at the end of March, extends unemployment benefits to those who have lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic but are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. In normal times, unemployment is available only employees who are out of work through no fault of their own. But the CARES Act extends unemployment to those who are not employees, but instead are in business for themselves as independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and the like.

If you fall into one of these groups, you may qualify for up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Learn more about eligibility for PUA and how West Virginia will calculate your benefit amount in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

Everyone collecting unemployment was receiving an extra $600 per week through the last full week of benefits payable in July 2020. But this program has expired, and Congress has not yet extended it. This extra money was available to those receiving traditional unemployment benefits and those who are receiving benefits through the new pandemic unemployment assistance program. President Trump has signed an executive memorandum attempting to increase benefits by $300 or $400 per week, but only a small handful of states have started actually paying out these benefits.

To learn more about how West Virginia calculates benefit amounts, see How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in West Virginia.

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

In the CARES Act, Congress extended the duration of unemployment benefits. In normal circumstances, most states offer 26 weeks of benefits (although some are less generous; learn how long benefits last in West Virginia). However, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program extends benefits for an extra 13 weeks. So, if you are unemployed when your state benefits run out, you can continue collecting benefits for 13 more weeks.

If you are getting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (the new federal benefits for gig workers, self-employed workers, and others who would not be eligible for traditional unemployment benefits), you can collect benefits for up to 39 weeks, total.

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

Many employees have been furloughed – placed on unpaid leave – due to COVID-19 and the state and local measures put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. You may get unemployment benefits if you are furloughed and not being paid. If you are receiving your usual pay, or you are on paid sick or family leave, however, you will not be eligible.

7. Can I collect unemployment if I am quarantined or have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. Many states have changed their rules to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Some states have made workers who are quarantined or ill with COVID-19 eligible for benefits.

At our last check, West Virginia announced changes to its unemployment rules to address the increasing numbers of claims relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The  West Virginia Department of Commerce has made the following changes to West Virginia’s unemployment insurance rules:

  • the one-week waiting period for eligible individuals to receive unemployment benefits is waived,
  • the “able and available” to work requirement is waived,
  • the work search requirement is waived, and
  • unemployment insurance benefits will be available to individuals who are quarantined or isolated by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer, whether or not the individual is diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you don’t qualify for benefits under West Virginia’s rules, you will likely qualify under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Those who are out of work because they are quarantined, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting a diagnosis, are eligible for these benefits.

8. Can I collect unemployment if I can’t work because my child’s school or care facility was closed due to COVID-19?

Yes. Many states have changed their rules to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. In some states, workers who must stay home to care for children whose school’s or daycare facilities have been closed can collect benefits.

At our last check, West Virginia announced changes to its unemployment rules to address the increasing numbers of claims relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The  West Virginia Department of Commerce has made the following changes to West Virginia’s unemployment insurance rules:

  • the one-week waiting period for eligible individuals to receive unemployment benefits is waived,
  • the “able and available” to work requirement is waived,
  • the work search requirement is waived, and
  • unemployment insurance benefits will be available to individuals who are quarantined or isolated by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer, whether or not the individual is diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you don’t qualify for benefits under West Virginia’s rules, you will likely qualify under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides benefits to those who can’t work because of school or care facility closures.

9. Where can I find the latest information on how West Virginia is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

The best place to look is West Virginia Department of Commerce’s website and resource page on COVID-19 and unemployment.

 

 

 

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