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If you texted to tell me that you lost your job, or that you’re sick with COVID-19 and couldn’t work, I’d give you a huge virtual hug. Then, I’d give you this unemployment survival guide. Finally, I’d FaceTime with you to listen to you vent about how unfair it is (because it is unfair), how scared you feel and anything else you want to curse at the Universe about.
So, if you’re facing unemployment and all the uncertainty that comes with it, I’m so sorry. You’re justified in feeling that it sucks, because it does. I hope these tips brighten your day a tiny bit. XOXO
How do I file for unemployment insurance?
First things first. If you’re currently unemployed, you’ll want to start collecting unemployment insurance as soon as you can. File for unemployment insurance online.
How do you know if you qualify? If you were laid off or otherwise lost your job and it wasn’t your fault, and if you meet criteria for wages you’ve earned or hours you’ve worked based on your state’s requirement, you’ll be eligible for unemployment insurance. You may have to also meet your own state’s additional criteria.
Don’t assume because you’re an independent contractor, you can’t get unemployment benefits.
Sure, unemployment is actually for W-2 employees. If you’re self-employed or an independent contractor, your wages don’t count toward unemployment insurance. But many independent contractors are treated like employees, and since the line is very fine, you should apply for unemployment insurance anyway.
It’s possible you were misclassified as an independent contractor and you may actually qualify for unemployment insurance under your state’s laws. Basically, you’ve been told you’re an independent contractor, but your unemployment agency may determine that you’ve actually been treated like an employee and thereby qualify for benefits.
It’ll be up to your local unemployment agency to decide if you’ve been misclassified or not. The process is long and can be frustrating, so buckle up.
You might qualify for unemployment benefits if you can’t work due to COVID-19.
Under new federal unemployment laws, you may be able to collect unemployment insurance under these circumstances related directly to novel coronavirus (COVID-19). You aren’t required to quit your job in order to receive these benefits either!
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work.
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over.
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
Look into longterm disability benefits for protection if you get sick or hurt.
This varies state by state, but look into whether you can apply for disability benefits in case you get sick with COVID-19, other illness or suffer an injury.
For example, California disability benefits may cover residents if their employer doesn’t offer sick leave.
If your state doesn’t offer this benefit, you can get longterm disability insurance for as low as $9 a month. Online providers, like Breeze, make it easy to sign up and get protection if you are self-employed, a gig worker, or do not have this benefit through your employer. Keep in mind, you’ll need to have a policy in place before you are out of work because of COVID-19 or another reason.
Get relief! Look into mortgage and rent, utility, credit card, and insurance relief programs.
While Congress hasn’t settled on a second coronavirus stimulus bill quite yet, there’s talk about it including relief for Americans who cannot make their monthly payments. Here’s what we know so far:
- FHA loans: On March 18, President Trump ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to suspend all evictions and foreclosures for 60 days for those who currently have an FHA loan on a single-family dwelling.
- Conventional loans: If you have a conventional loan through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you can get payment forbearance for up to 12 months if you’ve been affected by a COVID-19 hardship.
- Public (HUD) housing: If you live in public housing, Congress is actively trying to prevent evictions, but there’s not a current plan in place.
Call your utility company to find out what they are offering, but some cities — like Chicago — have bypassed utility companies altogether and set up community response funds to help people pay their utility bills.
Credit card relief
Loads of credit card companies and banks are offering relief for credit cardholders. Call your credit card company to see what they can do for you. Here are a few examples of what credit card companies are doing:
- American Express: Temporarily lower monthly payment and interest rate.
- Apple Card: Skip your March payment without paying a late fee.
- Bank of America: Waive fees and interest rates for carrying a monthly balance.
- Capital One: Temporarily lower fees and interest rates.
- Citibank: Forbearance program in case you can’t make your monthly payment.
Check in with your auto and home insurance providers to see if they have any plans in the works. Some states — like California — have asked these insurance providers to offer a 60-day grace period to residents who cannot make payments right now.
Gather a stockpile of food and essentials to last a few weeks.
Not only is the CDC recommending we all gather essentials right now, but it’ll give you a cushion of a few weeks where you won’t have to worry about grocery shopping.
I’m not recommending you hoard supplies! Just take what you’ll need for a few weeks of unemployment. The U.S. government has indicated there’s not a shortage of food, so there’s no reason to panic. But you can still prepare!
If you want to start couponing in order to save money stocking your pantry, KCL has you covered there!
Right now, Kroger is a good place to start. Kroger (and its sister stores Fred Meyer, Smiths and Ralphs) all offer grocery curbside pickup and delivery, and they take digital coupons you can find in their respective store apps. H-E-B also takes coupons with pickup or delivery orders.
Download the KCL app and we’ll tell you when we see the best deals on basics like pantry staples, toilet paper, hand soap and more.
Consider a temporary job until you can land something more permanent.
Temporary jobs offer income right away and often aren’t full-time gigs. If you can land a job until you find a career that’s in your field or area of interest, it’ll give you some cash flow and relieve a bit of stress.
Skilled labor, administrative duties, and customer support are roles that don’t require much experience and always have open temporary job listings. Check out these websites to get started:
Accept interviews even if you don’t want the job.
Especially crucial if you’re new to job hunting, accepting all interviews will give you practice answering questions in an interview setting. Right now, it’s likely that any job you interview for will be conducted over Skype or Zoom, or perhaps over the phone.
Either way, you’ll be more prepared (and calm) when you interview for the job you really want.
Take on freelance work if it’s a fit for your skill set, or volunteer to help your neighbors.
Can you write? Can you teach? Can you deliver food? It’s worth looking into platforms that match freelancers with clients, even if it’s just to get a small stream of income while you’re searching for a more permanent role. Here’s a list to work through:
If you’ve done all you can and you’re just trying to fill your time at home while you wait to hear back from potential employers, consider offering to place a grocery pickup order for your elderly or sick neighbors.
Angle your job search toward industries that’ll survive COVID-19.
This is more of a strategy than a single tip. But if you’re unemployed, especially if it’s due to COVID-19, it might be time for a paradigm shift in how you think about your career. This is especially true if you’re coming from brick-and-mortar employment.
Why? Because the novel coronavirus outbreak has significantly shifted the job market, and quickly. It’s not unreasonable to assume this trend could continue long after the outbreak is contained.
Here are the industries that Forbes predicts will survive and even thrive:
- Healthcare providers: Think about administration, registration, information technology, etc. You don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse to get a job at a hospital.
- Supermarket or grocery suppliers: Walmart, Kroger, Publix, etc. — especially if they have a strong online grocery pickup/delivery presence. For example, Walmart is hiring 150,000 people, Kroger is hiring 10,000 and Dollar General is hiring 50,000. PepsiCo is hiring 6,000.
- Delivery services: Everything from pizza delivery to third-party delivery services. For example, Dominos is hiring 10,000 people and Instacart is hiring a whopping 300,000!
- Pharmaceutical companies: Because they’re engaged in working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Here’s a list of pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. Also consider pharmacies — CVS is hiring 50,000 people.
- Technology companies: Think about tech companies who help people work from home more easily — like Slack and Zoom.
- Amazon, Google, Netflix, Microsoft: Let’s face it. These guys have enough capital to withstand the outbreak. For example, Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers.
Create a daily schedule and make it your new BFF.
Especially if you have kids at home right now, which, if you have kids, they’re probably literally at home.
A daily schedule doesn’t have to be rigid, but bare minimum if the whole family gets up, eats breakfast, gets dressed, brushes teeth, etc. It will create a feeling of normalcy during this time that’s anything but normal.
And for real, refuse to feel guilty about your children binging Disney+ or playing Fortnite until their eyeballs bleed. It’s a stressful time — especially if you’re unemployed. And yeah, go ahead and let your kids eat cookies for breakfast — all bets are off right now.
For your own schedule, plan to block out time to job search online, make calls, and network from your home if you’re practicing social distancing or under quarantine.
Keep your chin up! Staying positive will shine through in your interviews.
It won’t be easy to stay positive if you are experiencing extended unemployment, because it’s discouraging. But do whatever you can to stay calm and know you’ll find work again.
You’re strong, you’ll get through this!
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