Since the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip on the US, unemployment rates have been rising astronomically. As Benzinga reports, the unemployment rate rose from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April, representing the highest level since the peak of the Great Depression. If you’re a resident of Mississippi who’s lost their job or had their income reduced as a result of the crisis, unemployment insurance benefits (UI) could be just what you need to keep afloat. Here’s what you need to know about how to file for unemployment in Mississippi.
Since the introduction of the CARES Act on March 27, several new measures have been introduced to expand the UI package. Key to the new provisions are:
- The removal of the work search requirement. Usually, UI applicants would be expected to demonstrate that they are able and available to work, and are actively seeking unemployment. Now, you will still be considered for UI if you are unable and unavailable to work because: you have been furloughed; you have coronavirus or have been quarantined after exposure (if you are claiming for exposure, you’ll be asked to provide a medical certificate verifying the exposure); you are the primary caregiver to someone who has coronavirus or who has been quarantined after exposure (again, a medical certificate confirming exposure will be required); you have been asked to work reduced hours because of coronavirus; you’re unable to work because of school closures; you’ve been ordered to shelter in place.
- An extension of benefits to include the self-employed, gig workers, and contractors.
- An additional 13 weeks of UI on top of what the state allows, to a maximum of 4 months or until the end of July, whichever comes first.
- A supplementary, across-the-board payment of $600 per week on top of what the state allows, to a maximum of 4 months or until the end of July, whichever comes first.
- The usual one week waiting period before you can claim benefits has been waived.
The Eligibility Criteria
The work-search requirement may have been dropped, but you’ll still need to meet certain eligibility requirements to claim UI in Mississippi. In determining your eligibility, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) will look at how much you’ve earned over the base period (i.e. the first completed 4 of the last 5 quarters prior to the date you file your claim). Dull information can be found on the MDES website, but in brief, you must have worked in at least two-quarters of your base period, have earned at least $780.00 in the highest quarter of your base period, and have earned at least 40 times your weekly benefit amount over the entire base period.
You will not be eligible to claim UI if:
- You voluntarily left your last employment without just, reasonable cause
- You were fired for misconduct
- You have been made unemployed because of a labor dispute
- You are already receiving or in the process of filing a claim for unemployment benefits in another state
How to File for Unemployment in Mississippi
To file for unemployment in Mississippi, you can either create an account at mdes.ms.gov, or apply in person at WINS job centers. As Jackson Free Press notes, the state is currently encouraging all new applicants to file online in order to both cope with the increased demand and to reduce the exposure of applicants and WINS job center employees while social distancing is still in force.
Regardless of whether you file online or at a job center, you’ll be asked to provide the same basic information; namely:
- Your Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- Your mailing address
- A contact number on which you can be reached during business hours
- Your driver’s license or state ID
- your Alien ID Card if applicable
- You bank account information
- Your work history for the past 2 years. This should include the name and contact information for each prior employer, the period of your employment, your total earnings with each employer, and your reason for leaving
- If you have served in the military or worked for a federal agency within the last 18 months, additional information may be requested.
- Filing Weekly Claims
After you’ve filed your claim, you’ll need to submit a weekly benefits claim through your online account at mdes.ms.gov. Begin filing your weekly claims immediately, even if your initial claim is still under review or you have an appeal pending. If you miss a claim, you may not be eligible to receive payment for the missed week.
Amount and Duration of UI In Mississippi
In Mississippi, the maximum Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) allowed is $235.00 and the minimum WBA is $30.00. To help you calculate your estimated WBA, check the benefits chart provided on the MDES website. Remember, however, that this will be an estimate only: once the state has reviewed your application, you’ll be issued with a Notice of Determination which will state your actual entitlement.
In addition to the WBA, you’ll also be eligible for a supplementary $600 weekly payment from the government as part of the CARES Act. This doesn’t need to be applied for separately; if you are eligible for UI, the state will automatically check your eligibility for the $600 top-up payment and issue it along with your state benefit entitlement. Typically, the maximum period for claiming unemployment benefits in Mississippi is 26 weeks. Under the provisions of the CARES Act, however, this has been extended by a further 13 weeks. Assuming you don’t find employment in the meantime, you can therefore continue to claim benefits for up to 39 weeks in total.
The Appeals Process
If the MDES deny your claim, you have the right to appeal within 14 days of the mailing date of the Notice of Determination. Full information on the appeals process will be outlined on the notice.