Coronavirus has brought with it nothing but a dark cloud in all areas of our lives. It is not enough that you have to stay locked down in your house, you also have to forego your only means of income. While every country across the world has been negatively affected, Americans may have some reprieve since they can file for unemployment benefits. By mid-March 2020, 282,000 people had filed, and a week later, the number had grown to 3.3 million. In the state of Alabama, the governor issued an order closing down all non-essential businesses meaning that the unemployment rate has increased. That said, let’s check out details surrounding unemployment in Alabama and how you can file for benefits.
How the coronavirus has affected the unemployment rate in Alabama
Before coronavirus pandemic started, Alabama had experienced an improvement in its rate of unemployment. While in February 2019, the rate was 3.5%, the number had gone down to 2.7% by February 2020. Even the wages and salaries also increased. For instance, in February 2019, the average weekly wage in the private sector was $842.75, whereas a year later, in February 2020, it had grown to $878.55, according to Alabama News.
Unfortunately, these impressive figures will not last long because projections, as per new data revealed that the unemployment rate in March 2020 would have grown to 8.1%. Nevertheless, the figure is still among the lowest since other states like Louisiana and New Hampshire were expected to have their unemployment rates increase to 44.9% and 44.6%, up from 5.3% and 2.6%, respectively. Moreover, the 8.1% is much lower compared to the highest figures recorded in the last quarter of 2009, when the unemployment rate in Alabama was 11.8%.
Applying for the unemployment benefit in Alabama
The Secretary of Labor in Alabama, Fitzgerald Washington announced that they had $700 million in the unemployment trust fund, during a conference call with employers. The amount is the highest the state has ever held, and people are ready to claim it to help themselves during these hard economic times. Consequently, in the week ending March 21, 2020, more than 6000 people had filed for unemployment claims, and on 22 and 23rd March, around 17,000 more filed.
The procedure for applying for your benefits is easy since you can do so online by visiting the Alabama Department of Labor site. You can also call the Initial Claims Line on (866) 234-532, where you will first answer some questions before being connected to a customer service representative. A mobile phone is not recommended to make the call, so if you cannot access a touch-tone telephone, then you should visit your nearest Employment Service Office or One-Stop Career Center.
As you prepare to call them, ensure that you have personal details such as your social security number, most recent employment dates, name, and address of your most recent employer. You should also submit your driver’s license number or any other number from a state-issued identification document, mother’s maiden name, and work authorization number for non-US citizens. Once filed, you will receive documents including a monetary determination showing if you qualify and how much you should expect per week. You should, however, note that failing to give accurate and complete information will delay the benefits you are entitled to, so be as thorough as possible.
Eligibility of unemployment befits
As much as you may be in a hurry to get your slice of that $700 million, not everyone is eligible to file such claims. Those in quarantine or have been laid off without pay due to the coronavirus are eligible. However, you must have been quarantined by the government or medical professional agency, so if you choose not self-quarantine, then you do not qualify.
In the past laid-off workers must have been available and able to work while still receiving the benefits. That criteria has, however, been modified for the sake of those with COVOD-19. They should, however, take necessary measures to enable them to return to work when their condition improves or are no longer in quarantine. Moreover, claimants are also expected to be actively searching for work while still receiving benefits, but in this instance, they do not have to do so. Also, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are caring for a member of your immediate family who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, you can apply.
Finally, if you have been unemployed for the last two quarters, do not bother applying. For you to be eligible, you must have been earning in at least two quarters of your base period, the base period being the first four of the last five quarters since you filed your claim. That implies that if you filed your claim in March 2020, The Ascent explains that your base period would be 12 months beginning from October 1 to September 30, 2019. Additionally, the total of your base period wages should be equal or more than 1.5 times what you got in your highest quarter in that base period.
Now you can get a $600 weekly bonus
Usually, in the state of Alabama, the minimum amount you can receive is $45 per week, while the maximum is $275. In late March 2020, however, a bill was proposed to increase the weekly benefits by $600 until the end of June to enable the unemployed to cope with the lack of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dothan Eagle, the payment will go into effect for eligible weeks beginning from March 29 to July 25, 2020.
While that is quite a relief, you can, unfortunately, not claim it for longer than 20 weeks. Some states allow for the weekly benefits to go for more than 26 weeks, but in Alabama, you can only get them for between 14 to 20 weeks. However, all eligible workers could get an additional 13 weeks thanks to the federal CARES Act and if the high rate of unemployment persists.