News from Representative Himes

Friends, 

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about major life changes and unexpected challenges. Millions are struggling to manage their finances, care for their family, pay their bills, and put food on the table.

My office is fielding countless questions about Connecticut’s unemployment insurance system and the steps Congress is taking to help those who are furloughed or laid off. Please read below to learn more about how those who have recently been laid off or furloughed may access the expanded benefits provided by the CARES Act, including an extra $600 in payments per week to help get through this current crisis. Much of this information can also be found on the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Frequently Asked Questions page. My staff are also on hand to help if you call 203-333-6600.

What is Unemployment Insurance (UI)?

Unemployment Insurance is temporary income for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are either looking for new jobs, in approved training, or awaiting recall to employment. The funding for unemployment insurance benefits comes from taxes paid by employers. Workers do not pay any of the costs. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have earned sufficient wages during a specified time (monetary eligibility). To collect benefits, you must meet certain legal eligibility requirements.

To be eligible for UI, you must:

  • Be fully or partially unemployed;
  • Be unemployed through no fault of your own [the law imposes disqualifications for certain types of separations from employment];
  • Be physically and mentally able to work full time*;
  • Be available for full-time work*;
  • Be registered with the American Job Center;
  • Participate in selected reemployment services if you are identified as a dislocated worker by the profiling system;
  • File your weekly claims as directed.
*Individuals who cannot work because of a physical or mental impairment that is chronic or expected to be long-term or permanent may qualify for benefits if they are available for suitable part-time work.

Individuals who have been furloughed or laid off are eligible to receive UI.

How much money will I get from UI?

UI benefits in CT currently range from $15-$649 (the maximum) per week. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law on March 28 includes a weekly $600 plus up (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) for individuals who have lost their job (furloughed or laid off) or are unable to start a job due to the coronavirus pandemic.* This will raise weekly benefits to $615-$1,249 (maximum) per week.

*NOTE: CTDOL is currently unable to process this additional benefit. Please know that whenever the benefit is processed it will be retroactive to claims filed after March 29, 2020, including for those filing a claim for continued unemployment benefits.

To learn more about the exact amount you can receive from UI, please visit this page and select “What wages are used in determining monetary eligibility.”

Where/How can I apply?

The first step is to visit this page on CTDOL’s website. If you are filing for the first time, you can find a step-by-step tutorial that will guide you through the application process. If this guide is followed exactly, the DOL pledges that a claim will be processed in a fully automated system and will not be slowed by manual hurdles.

If you are a returning filer or have questions that are not answered in the first link, please view this FAQ that CTDOL is updating frequently.

More information for employees can be found here.

More information for employers can be found here.

The Connecticut Department of Labor workforce partner agencies are currently assisting in providing basic information about unemployment benefits, and can be reached at any of the following numbers from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm :

(203) 809-9847

(203) 892-6036

(203) 723-3817

Spanish Lines:

(203) 723-3819

(203) 450-9268

(203) 548-7322

Claims cannot be processed or expedited by calling this telephone service.

What happens after my claim is accepted?

Once you have completed a new claim application or reopened a claim, you will need to file weekly claims for benefits. To manage your unemployment claim, please visit this page, where you can file your weekly/continued claim, select/change direct deposit or debit card, check the status of your most recent payment, and view your payment history.

Why can’t I file a weekly continued claim?

If your initial claim application is still being processed, you will not be able to file a weekly continued claim until it is. Staff at CTDOL are working to process claims, but please understand there may be delays due to unusually high volume. Please check your email daily for specific instructions on how to file. You will not lose any weeks of unemployment because of the delay. You will also receive a “next steps” email when your claim is processed.

How long does UI last?

Normally, UI filers in Connecticut may collect up to 26 weeks of full benefits. However, the CARES Act included 13 weeks of federally funded benefits (Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation) that will be applied on top of regular UI. This means that new filers in Connecticut are eligible for 39 weeks of benefits until December 31, 2020. The 13 week-extension is available for individuals who were already receiving UI benefits before the coronavirus pandemic.

I am a freelancer/independent contractor/gig worker. Can I still get UI?

Prior to the CARES Act, these professions generally did not have access to UI. However, the CARES Act does allow self-employed individuals, freelancers, independent contractors, and others who are normally denied regular unemployment benefits to receive benefits through the new federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Due to the staggering number of claims being filed during the pandemic, CTDOL has announced it will not be able to process claims for this new benefit for self-employed and independent contractors until the new PUA system is set up. Click here to get updates from the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Why is my claim taking so long to process?

CTDOL is processing the thousands of claims that have been filed the last three weeks. Typically, the agency receives 3,000 new claims a week; in the last three weeks it has received more than 280,000 claims – more than eighteen months activity in a three-week period. Of these claims, the agency has processed over 115,000 by shifting staff responsibilities, borrowing former CTDOL staff that have gone to other agencies, and bringing back retirees.

Sincerely,

Jim

 
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