Filing for Unemployment: Tips for Solving the Puzzle
Hey, newsfeed! We get it. We’ve officially reached record unemployment numbers, not to mention website crashes and long wait times to file for unemployment.1 If you’re in dire financial need, now is not the time you want to wait in a long line. You need help now. And yet trying to apply for unemployment can seem like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: annoying and very difficult. That’s why we’ve curated some tips on how to file for unemployment based on your resources and comfort level.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many offices across the country have closed their physical doors, making it difficult to file for unemployment in person. Fortunately the fastest way to file is still available: online.
Tip: Due to increased claims during the COVID-19 crises, some states like New York are requiring people to file for unemployment on certain days based on the first letter of their last name.3
Choose a time of day when you have the patience to endure possible computer glitches, and a location free from little hands or paws that will interfere. Pour yourself your favorite beverage and grab a book or a crossword puzzle. Take a deep breath.
Have your documents and information ready by your computer including the following:
If you have a computer and internet access but you’re not sure where to begin, you’re in luck! You can still file for unemployment online and get your questions answered at the same time.
Tip: Check your state’s filing instructions daily! The State of Florida published paper applications on its website that you can print and mail to the Department of Economic Opportunity.5
Don’t try to call or file online while in the car, with your kiddos, with the TV on, or at your grandma’s farmhouse with the poor cell reception. You will need all of the patience, time and internet connection to make this happen speedily.
Next, have your documents out and ready. (See list above.)
Tip: Keep in mind that anyone other than an unemployment benefits representative will only be able to help with broad questions about the process. They will NOT be able to look at your specific claim.
Many people do not have a computer or internet, and for those in this situation, we feel you. You’re probably at your wit’s end. But don’t worry. Some workforce centers or even public libraries in some states are still open, so you could potentially get help in person or file online using one of their computers if you follow social distancing guidelines.
More likely, though, you will need to brave the phone. And trust us, getting your unemployment benefits will be well worth waiting on a seemingly endless phone call.
Tip: Mondays are typically the busiest.6, 7
Gather all your documents and information beforehand to make the call quick and painless. (See list above.) Give yourself time to keep stress levels as low as possible (e.g. NOT five minutes before dinner is ready) and be kind to the person on the other end of the phone. Stay calm. Keep the interaction personal and empathetic by asking for the other person’s name and treating them like a human.8
Tip: Tackle your stress by practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
Filing for unemployment claims is stressful and overwhelming. The key to success is starting early and taking the path that works best for you. You can file for unemployment online by yourself, online with help, in person or over the phone. And thankfully, now even gig workers, freelancers and the self-employed may qualify for unemployment benefits due to the $2.2 trillion Cares Act.9 So don’t delay in filing. You can do this!
1 Frost, M. (2020, March 26). Brooklynites say filing for unemployment is a full-time job during the coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved from Brooklyn Daily Eagle: https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2020/03/26/brooklynites-say-filing-for-unemployment-is-a-full-time-job-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/
2 Staff. (n.d.). How do I file for unemployment insurance? Retrieved from U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance
3 Staff. (n.d.). How to file a claim for UI Benefits. Retrieved from New York State Department of Labor: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/how_to_file_claim.shtm
4 Leonhardt, M. (2020, March 18). If you lose your job due to the coronavirus pandemic, here’s how to navigate filing for unemployment. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/18/how-to-file-for-unemployment-due-to-coronavirus.html
5 Mower, L. (2020, April 4). With its online jobless application process in shambles, Florida releases paper form. Retrieved from Miami Herald: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article241769146.html
6 Staff. (n.d.). Filing an application for unemployment. Retrieved from Kansas Department of Labor: https://www.getkansasbenefits.gov/FAQs/FilingApplication.aspx
7 Staff. (n.d.). After you’ve applied for unemployment: frequently asked questions. Retrieved from New York State Department of Labor: https://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/onceyouhaveappliedfaq.shtm
8 Yarrow, K. (2016, January 17). 10 Steps to great customer service. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-why-behind-the-buy/201601/10-steps-great-customer-service
9 Bogage, J. (2020, April 3). Coronavirus unemployment guide: What to do if you get laid off or furloughed. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/03/unemployed-coronavirus-faq/?arc404=true