Unemployment is at a record high across the US. In North Carolina, the situation is particularly dire. As The Washington Examiner reports, unemployment claims in the state have surged 5000 percent since the beginning of the COVID crisis, with the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Employment Security (DES) paying out more than $2 billion in unemployment insurance benefits (UI) in the last 64 days alone. If you’re one of the thousands of workers who’s been impacted by the crisis, here’s how to file for unemployment in North Carolina.
Who’s Eligible to File for Unemployment in New Carolina?
As with all states, New Carolina has strict guidelines about who can file for unemployment and who can’t. Typically, workers will need to meet the following requirements to be considered eligible:
- Legally authorized to work in the US
- Unemployed through no fault of their own
- Able, willing and available to work
However, as thebalancecareers.com notes, the Department of Labor has expanded the eligibility requirements in response to the crisis. Under the following circumstances, the work-search requirement will no longer apply:
- An employer stops operations on a temporary basis due to novel coronavirus, preventing employees from coming to work.
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to their previous place of work once the quarantine is over.
- An individual leaves their job due to a risk of exposure, infection or to care for a family member.
In a further expansion of the eligibility criteria, those who would not normally be considered eligible to apply – namely, the self-employed, gig workers, and freelancers – are now able to claim support. Regardless of why you became unemployed, it’s still expected that you meet minimum income requirements. To be eligible for UI, you’ll need to have earned wages in at least 2 quarters of the first 4 of the last 5 completed quarters and have earned at least $780 in 1 of the last 2 quarters of the same period.
How Can I File for Unemployment in North Carolina?
Once you’ve checked whether you’re eligible, don’t wait to file. Payments are backdated only to the date the DES receives your claim, so it’s recommended you apply within a maximum of 3 days of becoming unemployed. Additionally, bear in mind the department is currently reporting a backlog in applications due to the huge volume of new claims being received; don’t exacerbate delays outside your control by ones which are. To file, you’ll need to register an account at the North Carolina’s Department of Commerce website by following the below steps:
- Select ‘Create an Online Account’.
- Enter your SSN. Re-enter the number when prompted.
- Click on ‘Next’ once you land on the ‘User Account Creation’ page.
- Create a unique username. As you’ll need to use this each time you sign in, make it something memorable.
- Confirm a valid email address. Re-enter the address when prompted.
- Create a PIN number.
- Enter a contact phone number on which you can be reached during business hours.
- Enter a password. This should be at least 8 characters and contain an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, a number between 1-9, and a special character.
- Click on ‘Create Account.’
Sign in here. using the username and password you created in the previous steps. Follow the prompts to complete the application. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can also file by calling the DES Customer Call Center toll free at 888-737-0259; however, due to the overwhelming number of new claims currently being received, expect lengthy hold times.
As part of the application, you’ll be expected to confirm the following:
- You name, address, date of birth, and SSN (or Alien Registration Number if you’re not a US citizen)
- The names, addresses, and contact numbers for each employer you’ve worked for in the last 2 years. Expect to give a brief explanation of the reason for separation
- Return to work date if applicable
- Union information if applicable
- Your bank account details if you’d like to be paid by direct bank transfer (the other option is a pre-loaded debit card)
Additional information may be requested if you have worked in either the military or federal government in the last 2 years.
How Much Will I Get?
How much you get in weekly benefits will depend on how much you earned over the base period. To check your entitlement, divide how much you made in the last two-quarters by 52. This will be paid up to a maximum of $350 and a minimum of $15. In addition to what you get from the state, you’ll also be eligible to receive a supplementary weekly payment of $600 per week under the provisions of the CARES Act. The payment can be collected until the program ends in the last week of July.
How Long Can I Claim?
North Carolina typically allows you to claim a maximum of 12 weeks of UI in any 52-week period. Under the provisions of the CARES Act, this has been extended by a further 13 weeks, taking the total claimable period to 25 weeks.
What are the Next Steps?
After you’ve completed the initial claim, you’ll need to continue logging onto your account at the DES website to file a weekly claim for payment. You should begin filing weekly claims the week after submitting the initial application, even if you’re still waiting on a decision. If you fail to file a claim in time, you’ll not only be ineligible to receive payment for the week, you’ll also be required to reopen your claim.
Once the DES has finalized its review, they’ll send you a Notice of Determination to confirm their decision. Payments usually start within 2 weeks of the determination being received; however, bear in mind that due to the huge volume of applications currently being processed, delays are to be expected both in terms of receiving a decision and the commencement of payment. If the DES denies the application, you can file an appeal here. You must file the appeal as per the instructions included in the determination.