So far, more than 6.6 million people have already filed for unemployment in the United States during the coronaviru pandemic.
The Virginia Employment Commission said in a recent news release that 112,497 unemployment claims have been filed as of March 28.
For the thousands of people out of work, furloughed or had their hours reduced, how is the government taking these new circumstances into account?
Less red tape.
On March 17, Gov. Ralph Northam waived the one week waiting period to expedite the unemployment claims process, and a week later, Congress approved a stimulus package to provide relief for those affected by the coronavirus — it’s known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act.
The CARES Act will issue a one time payment to the following individuals based on their adjusted gross income: single adults up to $1,200, married couples with no children up to $2,400 and adults with children get an additional $500 for each child younger than 16 years old.
The IRS will take the 2018 taxes into account, unless you have already filed your 2019 taxes, and the payments will be sent either via direct deposit or mail based on your last tax return preferences. Read more about the CARE Act here.
Previously, H&R Block had the following information about the stimulus payment in their Tax Prep app:“The stimulus payment is actually an advance on your 2020 tax refund, and you won’t owe taxes on it. However, since the payment is an advance on your 2020 refund, it might lower your refund next year.”
After the story published, H&R Block wrote the following correction in an email: “You will not owe income taxes on your stimulus payment,” Caitlyn Camacho, spokeswoman for H&R Block wrote in an email on April 7. “When you file your 2020 tax return in 2021, you could get an additional stimulus payment, if your circumstances change.”
“The additional payment would be added to your refund or reduce your balance due.,” she added. “If your stimulus payment was too high based on actual 2020 information, it will not lower your refund or add to your balance due.”
H&R Block corrected the information on their app two days after they sent the email to WYDaily.
But what about taxpayers filing for unemployment claims in Virginia?
“If VEC approves your claim, you will receive a weekly benefit payment that is dependent on your past earnings,” according to the Frequently Asked Questions From Workers Regarding COVID-19 document from Northam’s office. “The maximum benefit amount is $378 for up to 26 weeks.”
Joyce Fogg, communications manager of the Virginia Employment Commission, said Thursday in order to qualify for unemployment benefits, the person must be either unemployed or had their hours reduced.
Fogg said when a person files an initial claim, they need to provide details such as their Social Security number, employer and proof of their wages. If the person has only worked for their employer for three weeks, she said to use an old employer.
“Then our staff will review that,” she said. “If they have questions, they will call.”
While those filing for unemployment benefits can do so by phone, Fogg recommended people file their initial claims online –––Sundays work best.
“The wait time is over two hours,” she said of the phone system.
If people choose to file their claim online, Fogg said to save their pages since the system could overload and kick them out.
“It’s just so busy right now,” she said about the website’s capacity. “It’s not crashing––the site’s working.”
Fogg warned people filing unemployment claims to beware of potential scammers and make sure they are using the correct website.
Before the coronavirus, once the person’s claim was approved, they were required to report all work, register with VEC Workforce Connection within five days, search for jobs every week, report job offers and refusals and file their continued unemployment claims each week, according to the VEC’s website.
While those who file for unemployment no longer have to fulfill most of those requirements, Fogg said they still have to file a continued claim each week in order to receive their benefits.
“As soon as you file now, you would get paid for the weeks you’re unemployed and an additional $600 on top of that from the federal government because the hope is, that once this is over, employers will hire employees back,” Fogg said.
But not everyone can qualify for unemployment benefits at this time.
Fogg noted the VEC was waiting on guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the CARE Act, which would allow 1099 filers, usually business owners, and gig employees to file for unemployment.
Once the they receive guidance and update VEC’s system, 1099 and gig workers will be eligible for unemployment, Fogg said.
“They will probably be denied,” she noted, referencing people who fall into those categories and have already filed for unemployment. “They should wait until they see a notice on our website.”
When asked if substitute teachers would qualify for unemployment, Fogg said she was unsure.
Fogg hopes the system will update in the next week.
As of Saturday, it is not clear how many people have filed for unemployment, if gig workers and self-employed persons are now eligible for unemployment benefits and if the VEC had resolved its issue with confirmation claim numbers.
On Friday, Northam said 114,104 people filed unemployment claims and both gig workers and self-employed persons were now eligible for unemployment.
The VEC was not immediately available for further comment.
To file a new unemployment claim with the Virginia Employment Commission, you can file a claim online or call 866-832-2363. Claim hours are Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. The office is closed Sundays and state holidays.
Already filed for unemployment? Re-open your claim here.
For continuing claims, you can file a claim online or call 800-897-5630.
For more information, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.
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