CARES Act Information and FAQ

Guide to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act Guide and FAQ will be updated periodically with new information and answers to new questions.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, August 12 at 1:00 PM Eastern.

Table of Contents


Notice About $600 FPUC Payments:

Under current Federal law and US DOL guidelines, July 24, 2020 was the last benefit week for $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments in New York. This may change if Congress takes action to extend Americans’ unemployment benefits.

Overview

The $2 trillion relief package passed by Congress in March, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, extends and expands unemployment benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals who find themselves without work because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health measures taken in response.

The CARES Act is designed to be as comprehensive as possible. It improves existing unemployment benefits; expands coverage to those who would not normally qualify for unemployment benefits; and extends the amount of time workers will receive benefits.

Therefore, the Guild encourages all members who are not currently employed full-time to apply for unemployment benefits.

You will likely qualify for an unemployment benefit under the CARES Act if you are unemployed or partially unemployed because:

  • You are quarantined, have symptoms, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • You are providing care for someone with COVID-19; or
  • You are providing care for a child or household member who cannot attend school or work due to the public health crisis; or
  • Your place of employment is closed due to the public health crisis; or
  • You were scheduled to commence a job that has been postponed or has been eliminated due to the public health crisis; or
  • You are willing but unable to find work in your field due to a loss of job opportunities caused by the public health crisis; or
  • You are an independent contractor who is unemployed or partially unemployed due to the public health crisis; or
  • You were laid off from your job as a regular or part-time W-2 employee due to the public health crisis.

We believe that most Guild members will be able to receive some kind of unemployment benefit – even if you are self-employed or seeking part-time employment; do not have sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment compensation; were not working at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak but are now unable to find work; have not worked recently as a W-2 employee; work only as a 1099 employee; or would not qualify for other reasons. Remember, the application of the Act is meant to be very broad.

The CARES Act does not cover those who can telework full-time with pay or those who are receiving paid sick or paid leave benefits.


Unemployment Benefit Programs

Below you will find a brief description of the various unemployment benefit programs for which members may be eligible. Click here to skip to further detail on how you should apply, and to which programs.

State Unemployment Insurance (UI)

State unemployment insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who lose their job through no fault of their own.

To qualify for state unemployment insurance, you must have worked enough hours and earned sufficient wages as a W-2 employee during the 18 months prior to filing (including W-2 residual payments).

If you are eligible for state unemployment insurance, your weekly benefit depends on how much you were paid during a “base period” (four calendar quarters of your work and wages).

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is designed to extend coverage to workers who do not fit under the umbrella of state unemployment insurance. If you are not qualified for state unemployment insurance, you will likely be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

The value of the benefit will be based on the state’s unemployment insurance.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation increases state unemployment insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance compensation: an additional $600 per week on top of the UI or PUA benefit you receive. You do not need to apply for this compensation separately. Please note: While most provisions of the CARES Act will continue through December 31, 2020, FPUC expired on July 26, 2020.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends state unemployment coverage to a maximum of 39 weeks. You do not need to apply for this benefit separately. It will automatically go into effect once you qualify for state UI. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance can also be accessed for a maximum of 39 weeks.


When and How Should I Apply?

You will likely be eligible for some benefit.

The CARES Act is designed to extend coverage to workers who do not fit under the traditional umbrella of state unemployment insurance coverage.

If you are a W-2 employee (or if you are both a W-2 employee and a 1099 employee), you will likely be eligible for state unemployment insurance.

You can apply immediately at the relevant state agency. If, for whatever reason, it turns out that you are not eligible for that benefit, then most states will automatically consider your application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. In some states, you will need to reapply for PUA after your application for state UI is rejected; in that case, the relevant state agency will direct you as to how to proceed.

In most other circumstances*, you will likely be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

You should apply at the relevant state agency. However, state unemployment agencies will need a few weeks to get this program up and running. You should therefore check the relevant state’s website daily over the next few weeks and wait to apply until they note that they are equipped to start receiving those applications which will likely lead to PUA. New York State is already equipped to receive applications that will likely lead to PUA.

* e.g., You are self-employed or seeking part-time employment; do not have sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment compensation; were not working at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak but are now unable to find work; have not worked recently as a W-2 employee; work only as a 1099 employee; or would not qualify for other reasons. Again, the Act is designed to be very broad. You should assume that you will qualify for some benefit.

If you accrued earnings in multiple states, you may be able to choose to apply in the state with the highest minimum unemployment benefit.

Refer to the relevant agencies’ websites to determine which state—of the states in which you accrued earnings—has the highest minimum unemployment benefit, and then check with that agency to see if you will be able to combine your earnings and apply in that state. Regardless of the state agency to which you apply, report all earnings from all states. The state agencies will cross reference and determine who pays you what, and from which fund.

You should claim all earnings from all employers from which you received payment.

You should claim any W-2 or 1099 earnings you have received. You should claim earnings from residuals. If you are the sole proprietor of a corporation, you should also claim any earnings you paid yourself, whether as a W-2 employee or as a 1099 employee. Check the relevant state agency’s website to determine what documentation you will need to present, and have all your paperwork ready.

If you did not have a job at the time the crisis began, but either cannot find new work because of the crisis or had an upcoming job cancelled because of the crisis, you will likely qualify for a benefit.

If you were a W-2 employee at your last job (or if you were both a W-2 employee and a 1099 employee at recent jobs), you will likely be eligible for state unemployment insurance. Please follow the instructions for W-2 employees.

If you were previously a 1099 employee only or otherwise do not believe that you will qualify for state UI, please follow the instructions for “most other circumstances.”


What Benefit(s) Will I Receive?

Benefits will vary depending on factors such as the state in which you apply and your household income.

Regardless:

  • If you qualify for state unemployment insurance, you will receive that benefit plus additional Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 per week (until the FPUC expiration date of July 26, 2020).
  • If you qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance,you will receive that benefit plus additional Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 per week (until the FPUC expiration date of July 26, 2020).

You do not need to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Compensation separately. It will automatically go into effect once you qualify for state UI or PUA. However, please note that while most provisions of the CARES Act will continue through December 31, 2020, FPUC expired on July 26, 2020.

These benefits can be accessed for a maximum of 39 weeks, using either Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension of state unemployment insurance. (You do not need to apply for PEUC separately. It will automatically go into effect once you qualify for state UI).


When Will I Receive Benefits?

It normally takes two or three weeks to start getting state unemployment insurance checks. However, the state agencies were underfunded and understaffed before unemployment claims skyrocketed, and although the relief package allocated emergency resources to the agencies, there may still be delays.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will likely take additional time, as states will need to first get the program up, running, and ready to accept claims. New York State is already equipped to receive applications that will likely lead to PUA.


FAQs

If you have additional questions and/or need assistance procuring legal representation, please contact one of the following staff members:

 General

State unemployment insurance mandates that I look for other work, but there is no (or less) available work in my field. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes. The work search mandate only applies to work in your respective field. Though you must be willing to work, able to work, and pursuing work in your field, the CARES Act makes it clear that states should relax their work search requirements, based on the understanding that workers cannot search for jobs as rigorously when the jobs do not exist or are in shorter supply in their industry.

My spouse or another breadwinner in my household is also applying for/has received these benefits. Will I still be able to receive assistance?

Yes. Your spouse’s receipt of benefits has no impact on your own.

I was working several jobs and have lost some of that work due to coronavirus. I am still partially employed, but I am not earning the amount I would be making under normal circumstances. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes.

If you have been paid as a W-2 employee (or if you have been paid as both a W-2 employee and a 1099 employee), you will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance. Please follow the instructions for W-2 employees.

If you have been paid as a 1099 employee only, you will likely qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Please follow the instructions for “most other circumstances.”

I was already collecting unemployment before the coronavirus outbreak.  Will I be able to receive additional assistance?

Yes.  You will likely be qualified to receive Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation in addition to the state unemployment insurance benefit you are already receiving. You do not need to reapply.

Freelance Employment

I have not had a W-2 in years and/or I do not think I have earned enough as a W-2 employee to qualify for state unemployment insurance. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes. You are likely covered by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Please follow the instructions for “most other circumstances.”

I am currently receiving residuals.  Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes, generally speaking.  However, each state treats residuals differently.  For example, while New York, California, and New Jersey all use residuals to calculate eligibility, only California and New Jersey use residuals to offset weekly benefit payments.  Report all residuals earnings, and the relevant state agency will make a determination as to your benefit eligibility.

If you have been paid as a W-2 employee (or if you have been paid as both a W-2 employee and a 1099 employee), you will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance. Please follow the instructions for W-2 employees.

If you have been paid as a 1099 employee only, you will likely qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Please follow the instructions for “most other circumstances.”

I am the sole proprietor of a corporation (e.g., an S corp or “loan out” corporation). Will I be able to receive assistance?

It depends.

If you were paying yourself as a 1099 employee, were taking cash distributions, or were being paid by pass through, your eligibility will depend on how your corporation was set up. And while you will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance if you have been paying yourself as a W-2 employee (or if you have been paying yourself both as a W-2 employee and as a 1099 employee), a claim’s impact on your corporation will also vary depending on how your corporation was set up.

We therefore recommend that you speak directly with the legal and/or financial advisors who helped you set up your corporation.  If you need help procuring legal representation, please contact Ani Quigley at aquigley@wgaeast.org.

Please note: If you apply for and receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan at the maximum benefit rate, you cannot receive state unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance until after the loan expires.

I am under contract and my contract has not been terminated – but my payment is late and I do not know if/when I will be paid. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Please contact Director of Contract Enforcement and Credits Geoff Betts at gbetts@wgaeast.org to receive assistance in retrieving payment.

Layoffs

I was laid off from my regular full- or part-time job as a W-2 employee. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes.

If you have been paid as a W-2 employee, you will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance. Please follow the instructions for W-2 employees.

I was laid off from my regular full- or part-time job as a W-2 employee, but I still get intermittent freelance work. Will I continue to be able to receive assistance?

If you have been paid as a W-2 employee (or if you have been paid as both a W-2 employee and a 1099 employee), you will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance. Please follow the instructions for W-2 employees.

I was laid off from my regular full- or part-time job as a W-2 employee, but I received a severance package. Will I be able to receive assistance?

It depends. The laws and guidelines regarding how severance pay affects eligibility for unemployment benefits vary from state to state. In New York, your eligibility for state unemployment insurance may or may not start right away, depending on how and when your severance is paid. Please contact Business Agent Michael Isaac at misaac@wgaeast.org.

Citizenship and Visas

I am not a United States citizen, but I am authorized to work on a United States production or for a company in the United States, and I have been paying into unemployment insurance. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes. You will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance. Please follow the instructions for W-2 employees.

I am not able to work but, because I am on a visa tied to one employer, I cannot satisfy state unemployment insurance mandates that I look for other work. Will I be able to receive assistance?

Yes. The CARES Act makes it clear that states should relax their work search requirements.

 


NELP x WGA East CARES Act Webinar

Watch the archive of the Guild’s April 23rd webinar featuring Judy Condi, the Government Affairs Director for the National Employment Law Project (NELP). She walks us through the relevant provisions of the CARES Act and answers questions that members have been posing as they try to navigate the process.


State Agencies

New York

California

Connecticut

New Jersey

Other states’ agency websites can be found here .

The CARES Act is designed to be as comprehensive as possible.

 

The Guild encourages all members who are not currently employed full-time to apply for UI benefits.

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