Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis many state unemployment offices have been overwhelmed, making it difficult to call or contact anyone with questions. We have generated a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) provide by state Unemployment and Workforce Development offices. Hopefully you will find the answer to any question/s you have listed here. If you cannot locate the answer/s to your question/s you will need to refer to your state Unemployment or Workforce Development website or resources.

Keep in mind eligibility decisions are made by your specific state Unemployment or Workforce Development agency and each claim is reviewed independently with decisions based on your specific set of circumstances.

IMPORTANT – No unemployment benefits will be paid to you until you register with your State Unemployment or Department of Workforce Development office.

You must fully register with your state usually within 14 days of applying (filing your initial claim) for unemployment benefits. Failure to fully register by any deadline will likely result in a suspension of or delay in benefits until the registration is complete.

You may not be eligible for benefits for any week prior to your application if your registration is not completed in the time frame outlined or required by your state, or if you fail otherwise to participate in required state re-employment programs or services as directed. Most states do not offer retroactive benefits

In general state unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer shut down operations and no work was available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary or other weekly eligibility criteria.

Apply for unemployment benefits online when:

  • You are totally unemployed,
  • You are partially unemployed (your weekly earnings are reduced), or
  • You expect to be laid off within the next 13 weeks and would like to start your benefit year early.

Important: Your claim begins the week you apply. To avoid any loss of benefits, apply the first week you are unemployed. Do not wait until the week is over.

If you live in one state and work in another, you file unemployment in the state where you had the job or worked. If you lost your job, then moved to another state, the same rule applies. The exact process varies from state to state.

Marcus-Cares has provided a listing that includes information on how to apply in every state we operate here. Every state offers an online application process which is the most efficient way to apply during this period of high demand. State offices are suggesting you only call if your claim has been denied or if you have tried to apply online and after several tries find you are unable to do so.

Depending on the state claims can take several days or even weeks to process. If necessary, your state office will contact you just as soon as your claim is ready to be completed. Remember to do the following while your claim is being processed:

Read all communication about your claim. Check your email, any state department of Unemployment or Workforce Development online message centers, telephone messages, and the mail for any claim-related updates. Keep your address current because you will likely receive letters outlining what you need to do to maintain benefit eligibility. The decisions about your claim are made based on available information, so it is important that you respond on time when you’re instructed to do so.

File for weekly benefits when and where you are instructed to do so while your claim is processing. You will likely have a limited number of days to file for your weekly benefits. If you don’t file your claim on time, your benefit payments may be affected.

Report your gross earnings (before taxes are deducted) each week. Gross earnings include, but are not limited to: your hourly rate of pay multiplied by the total hours worked, tips, commission, and earnings from self-employment. You must report all earnings for the week that you perform the work. Do not wait until you are paid. Keep track of the total hours you work each week, in most states this means Sunday through Saturday. Misreporting wages is fraud and could result in penalties and criminal charges.

Workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits (Wisconsin is included in that group) from the regular state-funded unemployment compensation program, although a few states provide fewer weeks. You will want to check your states specific rules on length of eligibility.

Under the new CARES Act response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all states will be allowed to provide up to 13 additional weeks of federally funded extended benefits to people who exhaust their regular state benefits. Under the Act, through the end of this year, people who exhaust both regular and extended benefits, and many others who have lost their jobs for reasons arising from the pandemic but who are not normally eligible for UI in their state, are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. People can receive a maximum of 39 weeks of benefits this year from all three sources combined.

Some states still have a “waiting week” rule in place. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis most states have repealed the “waiting week” requirement (including Wisconsin on 4/15), which will permit a claimant to receive UI benefits beginning with his or her first week of eligibility. Each state should have additional information on their website regarding their current enforcement of a “waiting week”.

After you file your weekly claim, it will trigger an unemployment benefit payment for that week. You should be able review your payment information online. In most states you have the option of having your unemployment compensation directly deposited in a bank account or receiving them on a pre-paid debt card the state can have issued for you.

Many states have waved the job search requirement based on their Governor’s Executive Orders or Legislation. However, Unemployment and Workforce Development offices have not had a chance to update their systems and websites. In most cases no action is needed on your part regarding continued work search.

In most cases, no. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible.

No. The federal requirements mandate that claimants be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking suitable work. If someone is so ill that they are unable to work, they would not meet these criteria.

Yes. If you receive unemployment benefits/pay, next year you will get a 1099G form reporting that income. If your address should change you will need to inform the Unemployment or Workforce Development office.

No. These checks are not associated with money or payment received for work or from an employer, similar to a tax refund, child support, etc. it is not reported as wages or income to the state Unemployment or Workforce Development offices.

Based on Internal Revenue Code guidelines unemployment benefits are exempt from IRS tax levies. You should, however, contact the IRS if you owe them money and can’t afford to pay; your account can likely be determined to be temporarily uncollectable.

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