Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Expands Unemployment Benefits for Workers Impacted by the Pandemic

On Friday, the federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ( CARES Act), a comprehensive bill designed to help stabilize the United States economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Title II of the CARES Act strengthens and provides extended unemployment benefits that would not otherwise be available to impacted workers.

Expansion of workers eligible for benefits: Under Section 2102, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not otherwise eligible for unemployment compensation; this includes self-employed individuals, independent contractors, gig workers, part-time seekers, and those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits, provided they can self-certify that they are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because:

  • They have been diagnosed with coronavirus or are experiencing symptoms of the virus that require a medical diagnosis.
  • A member of their household has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
  • They are providing care for a family member or member of their household diagnosed with coronavirus.
  • A member of their household for which they have primary caregiver responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that has been closed due to coronavirus. Because of this closure, they cannot work.
  • They are unable to work because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the public health emergency.
  • They are unable to work because they have been advised to self-quarantine by a doctor.

Workers who can work remotely with pay or who have received paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits are not eligible to receive benefits under this program.

Increase in the amount of benefits payable: Under section 2104 of the Act, there is an increase in unemployment benefits payable to an unemployed worker. This section provides an additional $600.00 per week of “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation” in addition to the regular unemployment benefits provided under state law for four (4) months.  

Elimination of waiting period: Section 2105 of the Act establishes a program whereby the federal government will reimburse states who provide unemployment benefits to unemployed workers for the first full week of unemployment; thus, eliminating the typical one-week waiting period under existing state law.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation:  Section 2107 of the Act provides an additional thirteen (13) weeks of benefits through December 31, 2020, for those who have exhausted all rights to regular unemployment compensation under applicable state law concerning this benefit year.

Workers whose hours are reduced can collect unemployment: Section 2109 of the Act provides benefits for employees who have not been terminated or laid off but whose hours have been reduced or cut.

If you need to file for unemployment compensation, the best way to apply is online. Workers in North Carolina can apply with the N.C Division of Employment Security at DES.nc.gov/apply-unemployment.

For South Carolina, applications can be made to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce at dew.sc.gov/individuals/apply-for-benefits.

When completing your application, use the word “coronavirus” when asked to list why you are currently unemployed and filing for unemployment benefits.

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