CARES Act: Accessing Unemployment Benefits

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, also known as the Stimulus Package, made more individuals eligible to receive unemployment benefits AND increased the amounts they are eligible to receiveBelow we provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions for accessing these services. 

In order to qualify for Virginia unemployment benefits you must: 
  • Be unemployed, partly unemployed (including furloughed), or unable to work for a variety of reasons through no fault of your own
  • Be unemployed, partly unemployed, or unable to work for a variety of reasons through no fault of your own 
  • Be available to work if work was available to you 
  • Meet a minimum previous earnings requirement 

However, you CANNOT apply for unemployment benefits if you are: 

  • Able to work from home/telework and get paid
  • Taking Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) or Emergency Family Medical Leave (EFMLA) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
  • Using paid sick leave/PTO under your employer’s existing plan
  • Fired for cause or quit when there was work available

This includes workers who are self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, and gig-economy workers.  

You can also qualify if you have been furloughed or your hours have been reduced to the point where your gross earnings are less than your weekly benefit amount. The maximum weekly benefit amount in Virginia is $378 (not including the stimulus benefit). 

You may also qualify for a number of coronavirus-related reasons: 
  • You have received a diagnosis of COVID-19 
  • You are experiencing symptoms or are required to be quarantined.  
  • You must care for a member of your family or household who has received a diagnosis. 
  • You rely on a school, a day care center, or another facility to care for a child, elderly parent, or another household member so that you can work, and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus. 
  • You are unable to get to work because of a transportation quarantine imposed as a result of the outbreak.  
  • You were about to start a new job but now cannot because of an outbreak, or you were immediately laid off from a new job and did not have a sufficient work history to qualify for benefits under normal circumstances.

Be prepared to provide the following information: 

  • Name 
  • Address 
  • Social Security number or Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen) 
  • Name, address, and telephone number of your last employer 
  • Dates of employment 
  • Reason you are no longer working 
    • If you are out of work due to the Coronavirus crisis, select “Lack of Work” as the reason for separation 
  • You will be asked to select your desired payment method. You can choose between direct deposit to your bank account or a prepaid debit card. If you choose direct deposit, you will need to supply your bank account and routing numbers. 

  • For new or continuing claims, apply online at www.vec.virginia.gov. This is the FASTEST way to get your application for benefits started. Applications are available in English and Spanish. 
    • For new claims, call the Customer Contact Center at (866) 832-2363 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (except for state holidays).  
    • For continuing claims, call: 1-800-897-5630. 
  • According to the VEC, the wait time is currently two hours. Once you connect with a service agent, you can opt for the call center to hold your place in line. A service agent will call you back as soon as one is available. 

  • Beginning with claims effective March 15, 2020, Governor Northam has directed that the one week waiting period is suspended for those receiving unemployment insurance benefits. 
  • If you are eligible for benefits, a payment should be processed shortly after you claim your first full week. Your first payment will be for the week after the effective date of your claim.  

After your application for unemployment benefits is approved, you must then file a weekly claim for each week that you are out of work or you will NOT be paid! 

  • Complete and submit your weekly UI payment request by calling 1-800-897-5630 or online at  http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed 
  • The VEC recommends you do this on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday of each week if you remain unemployed and want to be paid for the prior week. 

Beginning with claims effective March 15, 2020, Governor Northam has directed that the requirement to conduct a weekly job search is suspended for those receiving unemployment insurance benefits.  

In Virginia, benefit amounts range from a minimum of $60 per week to $378 per week, depending on your previous earningsUnder the Stimulus Package, eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of their regular Virginia benefits. The extra $600 payment will last for up to four months, covering weeks of unemployment ending July 31, 2020. 

The maximum number of weeks you can receive unemployment benefits in Virginia ranges between 12 and 26, depending on the amount of wages you earned while employed. Under the Stimulus Package, all eligible workers can receive unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, making the maximum total 39 weeks.  

Expanded coverage will be available to workers who were newly eligible for unemployment benefits for weeks starting on Jan. 27, 2020, and through Dec. 31, 2020. 

For additional details and up to date information, visit http://www.vec.virginia.gov/