The New Unemployment Benefits: How do I Apply?

As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, the threat of unemployment is becoming a reality for more and more people. If the worst happens, and you lose your job, you’ll need to know how to apply for the new $400 unemployment benefits. Getting any financial help during the coronavirus crisis will keep food on the table and a roof over your head. 

Unemployment: Current Stats in the US

Everyone has felt the devastating impact of the coronavirus. The CDC reports that, by August 2020, over 5.5 million had been infected with the virus. The virus has also claimed over 170,000 lives in the U.S. But the economic impact has been even higher. While the number of new unemployment claims is falling, news reports say that around 1 million Americans file for unemployment every week.

Now, new $400 unemployment benefits could be on the way. President Trump signed executive orders to boost unemployment by $400 a week. And, this is on top of regular unemployment that states pay jobless folks. 

How do you apply for unemployment if you’re among the newly unemployed? Or, maybe you’re furloughed, and you’re worried that you’ll not have a job to return to. Unfortunately, with no end in sight to the coronavirus crisis, new job losses are inevitable.

This article explains how you can apply for the new $400 unemployment benefits. 

How to Apply for the New $400 Unemployment Benefits


To apply for unemployment benefits, you have to file a claim with the unemployment office in the state where you worked. In most cases, you can make your claim online, in person, or over the telephone. You should have all the relevant information at hand about your previous jobs. 

If you need to apply for unemployment benefits, you can find your local benefits office location on this government’s website.

You’ll need to have the following documentation to apply:

  • Social security number
  • Employment information for the previous 18 months
  • The Employer Registration number of your most recent employer
  • The reason for being laid off
  • Information about your wages

If your employer lays you off, it’s vital to apply for the benefits as soon as possible. Due to the high demand in applicants and long processing times, it could take a few weeks until you get your first benefit check. Usually, applying online with your local state unemployment office is the easiest way. You also avoid any risk of coming into contact with anyone infected with the virus.

Who Can Apply for the New $400 Unemployment Benefits?

You are eligible for the $400 unemployment benefits if you lost your job or were furloughed due to Covid-19. Of course, usual state guidelines apply for claiming new unemployment. For example, unemployment has to be through no fault of your own, and you must meet the work and wage requirements. 

According to the President’s executive memorandum, anyone who qualified for welfare under the CARES Act should be eligible for the new $400 unemployment check. This includes self-employed and gig workers, as well as anyone receiving unemployment compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

But there’s a catch. Not everyone may qualify for the extended unemployment benefits. To get the new $400 unemployment top-up, you have to be eligible for more than $100 a week in regular, state-funded unemployment.

How Much You Can Expect to Receive Under the New Unemployment Benefit Scheme

The big question is — how much will you get under Trump’s new unemployment order? The total amount of unemployment depends on your local state. In some states, the weekly unemployment check is about half of your wages. In other states, it could be less than $100. So, you’ll need to find out how much your local state pays.

Related reading: Where to find help if you’re on a low income.

Does Every Jobless Person Get the New $400 Unemployment Check?

For most unemployed folks, the extra $400 would, in reality, be $300. Why wouldn’t you get the full amount? The answer is because states have to fund part of the benefits top-up, and the federal government pays the rest. 

Here’s how it works: 

The government’s announcement said that $300 will come from federal funds. But states have to pay $100 from their budgets to make it up to $400. But with state spending already stretched to the limit due to Covid-19 economic impacts, it’s unlikely that most states will contribute. So, rather than $400, you’re more likely to get $300 — half of what you get under the CARES Act.

There’s another reason why you might not get the full amount under the new unemployment benefits. The extended unemployment ends on December 27. But if money runs out before then, the extra benefits will stop early.

Related reading: What to do when unemployment runs out.

The President’s Executive Stimulus Orders: What They Mean for You

The President signed in the new $400 unemployment benefits because Congress couldn’t agree on a new stimulus package. More federal cash is needed to boost the hard-hit U.S. economy. But the CARES Act expired at the end of July, and this meant that the extended $600 in weekly unemployment benefits stopped. 

Apart from an extra $400 on unemployment, there are other provisions in Trump’s executive stimulus orders. Here’s a brief overview of what these could mean for you:

  • Anyone who earns less than $100,000 a year would qualify for a payroll tax holiday
  • The provision for student loan relief gets extended through December 31
  • An extension to eviction moratoriums for anyone who can’t pay rent or their mortgage

When Do the New $400 Unemployment Benefits Apply?

So, if extra cash is on its way to boost your unemployment check, when can you expect it? The simple answer is — no one knows at present. 

Unfortunately, there are several reasons why the money could be delayed, or why you may never get it at all. Here are just two:

  • Legal challenges — U.S. law says that only Congress has the power to distribute federal money, not the President. Any legal problems could delay when you get the much-needed unemployment cash.
  • Processing time The Trump announcement said that payments would be made retroactively to August 1. But to make this happen, states would need to set up new processing systems — and that could take a long time.

Applying for New Unemployment Benefits: In Conclusion

It’s vital to apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you lose your job. Hopefully, everyone receiving an unemployment check will get an extra $400 a week. This extra money is essential to help pay for groceries, rent, and essential day-to-day items. 

In the meantime, many folks are struggling to make ends meet. If you are one of them, please check out these resources where you can get extra help during the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, you can find out about companies near you that are currently hiring if you need to get a job soon. Or, you could explore the possibilities of working remotely from home.