How to File for Unemployment Insurance in Washington D.C. During COVID-19

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Filing for Unemployment in DC: What you need to know

Due to the quarantine imposed because of the spread of COVID-19, unemployment filings throughout the United States have skyrocketed. Since March 15 there have been more than 46,000 people who have filed for unemployment for the first time in the District, or roughly 11% of the capital’s workforce. It is very likely that you will find yourself in need of unemployment insurance during this difficult time and you are likely to have many questions. Here is what you need to know.

How can I apply?

You can file your initial unemployment insurance claim on the Unemployment Insurance Service Center page of the Department of Employment Services website. For more information on the required documentation, as well as the number to file by phone, please go to the DoES website.

Be advised that DC’s new unemployment insurance system is currently under scrutiny due to what experts describe as potentially serious security concerns, such as being required to mail in a social security card or sending private family information to confirm one’s identity. Please use extreme caution when sharing your information and be mindful of potential personal security risks.

Additionally, if you are not a US citizen you will need legal work authorization to be able to qualify for unemployment insurance. For this reason, the many thousands of undocumented workers in the DC region will be unable to qualify for benefits.

When can I start receiving unemployment insurance?

The unemployment office is still dramatically understaffed, resulting in people who applied a month ago just now receiving benefits. However, due to these issues, most can expect to wait weeks to begin receiving their benefits. The city is taking steps to reinforce its unemployment system and staffing however, and some people are starting to finally get the benefits they signed up for.

Contractors, self-employed workers and Gig workers can receive benefits if they can provide documentation of their income, however, you should expect that this will take a long time, up to months for workers like gig workers, due to the overloaded unemployment systems.

How much money can I expect to receive?

As of January 2020, the maximum weekly benefit was increased to $444 for 26 weeks. This is not including the additional time and money allocated from the CARES Act, which provides an additional $600 weekly.

You can also receive unemployment insurance if you are working part-time during the crisis. To calculate your expected benefits, add $50 to your weekly unemployment amount and subtract 66 percent of your gross weekly wages, rounding down.

If you couldn’t or didn’t apply for PUA benefits immediately when fired because the system wasn’t up to date, you will be retroactively paid for those missed weeks once they begin receiving benefits, including both the state money and the extra $600 from the federal government.

Additionally, if your employer attempts to discourage you from applying for unemployment insurance, you should apply anyway. There are a variety of reasons an employer may do this, some of which can be inappropriate activity on the part of the employer. Focus on ensuring your financial wellbeing and, if you are concerned about infringements on your rights, feel free to give us a call.