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As workers in Delaware and beyond are seeing their jobs suspended or even eliminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass closures that have come with it, you might be wondering if you can rely on unemployment insurance to get you through the next couple of months (or more).
The answer is, as with most things: It depends. Unemployment remains available through the Delaware Division of Labor (DDL), and in some coronavirus-related cases, you will be eligible.
First: In order to collect benefits, you need to have been paying into it. If taxes come out of your paycheck, you are most likely paying into it. You must have worked in the last 12 months (though you don’t need to have worked the entire 12 months), and you have to have earned the required minimum. If you work full-time or close to full-time, you likely meet the minimum; if you only work a couple of hours a week, you likely do not.
If you earn money without taxes taken out and file a 1099 — freelancers, contractors, gig workers such as Uber drivers and some “employees” who are paid as contractors — you are not eligible for benefits. The only exception is if you have set your business up as an S Corporation, which requires paying unemployment tax, and you collect salary as an employee. This setup is not something you would not be aware of if it applies to you.
The big questions are about missing work specifically due to the virus. As a general rule, unemployment payments go to people who have lost their job (or a significant part of their job) through no fault of their own, are willing and able to work, and are actively looking for another job; people who have been temporarily laid off and have a confirmed restart date aren’t required to look for a new job.
With that said, here are the basics if you lose work due to the pandemic, per DDL:
- If you are laid off because your employer is forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions, that falls under “no fault of your own,” and, if you meet the standard eligibility requirements, you may be able to collect, even if the layoff is temporary.
- If you are symptom-free and staying home as voluntary social distancing, you may be eligible if your employer requested you stay home and is not offering work from home. If you choose to stay home but your employer expects you to come in, you probably would not be eligible, though cases will be investigated before a decision is made.
- If you are in mandatory quarantine and are symptom free, you may qualify to collect, however, if you become sick enough that you are unable to work, you may lose that eligibility. You should see what your employer’s options are for medical leave before applying for unemployment, especially if you plan to return to your job.
- If you are too sick to work, you won’t be eligible for unemployment. Check your employer’s medical leave policy and/or short-term disability benefits.
One good thing about filing for unemployment in Delaware is that is that it’s all digital now, so no waiting in long lines or otherwise breaking social distancing recommendations.
Meanwhile, with Delaware bars and restaurants restricted to take-out and delivery only, consider giving a nice tip, including when picking up, as workers in the hospitality industry will be among the hardest hit economically in the coming weeks.
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