As AP News reports, a record 16.8 million US workers have registered as unemployed in the last three weeks alone, and it’s far from over. Like most states, Connecticut has been hit hard by the COVID -19 pandemic, with the Department of Labor experiencing a massive upsurge in new unemployment claimants. If you’re one of the many Connecticut workers who’ve found their income suddenly cut or reduced as a result of the crisis, it’s worth investigating exactly what your entitlements are before you start eating into your savings.
Who’s Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Connecticut?
Typically, benefits are only payable under the following circumstances:
- You are fully or partially unemployed
- You have been made unemployed through no fault of your own
- You are able and available to work full-time
- You have registered with the American Job Center
- You are actively seeking work
- You are available to participate in selected reemployment services
You will also need to meet certain minimum income requirements. Connecticut, like most states, looks at your earnings over the base period- i.e. the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. To be eligible to collect unemployment benefits, you must have earned at least 40 times the weekly benefit amount in your base period.
Further to the introduction of the CARES Act on March 27, applicants are longer required to comply with the work-search requirements of the eligibility criteria if their income or employment have been affected as a result of any of the following:
- You are infected with COVID-19.
- You are in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 (a medical certificate to verify the exposure may be requested).
- You are a caregiver to someone who has COVID-19.
- You are a caregiver to someone who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- You have been furloughed because of COVID-19.
- You have been asked to work reduced hours on a pro-rated income because of COVID-19.
- You cannot work because of school closures.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or a gig worker whose business has been adversely affected by COVID-19.
How Do I File for Unemployment in Connecticut?
Before beginning your application, it’s worth gathering all the information that will be requested as part of the claims process. This includes:
- Your social security number.
- Your employment history for the past 18 months, to include employer contact details, dates of employment, occupation with the employer, and reason for leaving.
- Dependent information (if applicable). This should include your spouse’s income and social security number, and the names, ages, and dates of birth of any dependent children.
- Separation packet, if provided by your previous employer. If you were not provided with a package, you will need to confirm the reason for ending your employment.
- Form DD214, if you were in the military during the previous 18 months.
- Form SF-8 and your most recent paystub, if you were a federal employee during the previous 18 months.
- Alien registration number or other proof that you are authorized to work in the United States, if you are not a U.S. citizen.
Applications for unemployment can be made in one of two ways:
1. By phone: Call the TeleBenefits Line for your calling area (visit the CT Direct Benefits website for a full directory). If your SSN ends with:
- 0 through 2, call on Monday, 7 am to 4 pm EST
- 2 through 5, call on Tuesday, 7 am to 4 pm EST
- 6 through 9, call on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 7 am to 4 pm EST
When your call is answered, select your preferred language, then press or say 3 to file a new claim. An automated system will then run through 20 questions with you, before transferring you to a customer service agent to finalize the claim.
2. Online: Visit the CT Direct Benefits website and create a new account using your SSN and email address. Follow the prompts to submit the claim.
How Much Will I Get?
Since October 6, 2019, the maximum weekly benefit rate in Connecticut is set at $649. Your actual entitlement will vary according to what you earned during your base period. To calculate your likely entitlement, add your income over your 2 highest earning quarters in the base period. Divide by 26, then round down to the nearest dollar to give your weekly benefits total. If you have dependents, you’ll be entitled to claim an additional $15 per dependent, up to a maximum of $75 per week. In addition to your state benefits, you’ll also be eligible to receive a supplementary flat payment of $600 per week under the CARES act, effective until the end of July.
How Do I Receive Payments?
When you file your initial claim, you’ll be asked to specify how you would like to be paid. Options include:
- Direct Deposit: benefits are paid directly into a checking or savings account.
- Debit Card: you will be sent a debit card within 7-10 days of approval. The card can be used to withdraw cash or to make purchases.
Can I Appeal If My Application is Denied?
If your application for unemployment is denied, you’ll receive a written statement to that effect within 3 weeks of filing your claim. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal within 21 days of the mailing date of the predetermination statement. Appeals can be made in-person, online, or by U.S. mail or a private, IRS approved delivery service. Your appeal will first be heard by a referee: if you wish to then appeal their decision, you will need to request a review by the Board of Review. Any appeals made after the Board have heard the case will need to be logged with the Superior Court.
How Long Can I Claim Unemployment Benefits?
Prior to the introduction of the CARES Act, unemployment benefits in Connecticut were paid for a maximum of 26 weeks. Effective March 27, claimants can now request payment for an additional 13 weeks until the end of July.