Both North Carolina and South Carolina have waived some requirements typically required to receive unemployment benefits. However issues have arisen for some people when it comes to filing and receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
WCNC Charlotte is committed to helping you understand, file, and manage unemployment benefits.
Chapter one: How to file for unemployment?
How to file for unemployment in North Carolina and South Carolina
State unemployment benefits are a maximum of $350 a week for 13 weeks.
- There are also federal benefits available for people who qualify for state benefits.
- Two types of federal benefits are available for people who do not get state benefits either because they do not qualify or because they already used allotted benefits after a different job loss.
Federal benefits were increased to pay $600 a week through July 2020. Unless Congress acts, the law will revert back to original levels.
To file for North Carolina unemployment
To file a claim by phone: 1-888-737-0259
To file for South Carolina unemployment
To file an out of state claim by phone, residents should call the Interstate Unit at 1-800-529-8339.
If denied unemployment benefits
If you believe that a claim for unemployment benefits has been unfairly denied, contact your state's unemployment compensation office.
Chapter two: What is needed to file?
What you need to apply for unemployment benefits
Whether applying online or by phone, this is what you will need when filing for unemployment benefits.
- your social security number
- driver's license number
- information on all your employers in the past 18 months, including company name, supervisor's name, address (mailing and physical location), and phone number
- the Employer Registration number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) of your most recent employer (FEIN can be found on your W-2 forms)
- the reason for working reduced hours or no longer working with the employer
- wages earned and how you were paid (e.g. hourly, weekly, monthly)
- your most recent separation form (DD 214 form) if you served in the military
Governors waive some requirements
- The removal of the one-week waiting period typically required before someone who lost a job can apply for benefits.
- Those unemployed and seeking benefits will not be required to seek additional work during the outbreak.
- Employees who lose their job, or in certain cases have their orders reduced, because of the COVID-19 coronavirus are eligible to apply for benefits.
- Benefit applications will not need to interview in-person and instead can be interviewed as a part of the application process online or by phone.
- Businesses with workers seeking unemployment will not have losses counted against them.
Chapter three: Video Q and A
Video Q&A to frequently asked unemployment questions
What are the new Unemployment Programs in response to COVID-19?
The federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act also known as the CARES Act. It was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. And, the stated purpose is to provide relief from economic consequences of COVID-19. One of the ways that it does that is by expanding state unemployment insurance (UI) programs.
There are 3 new unemployment programs under the CARES Act: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 in weekly UI benefits; Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides up to 13 additional weeks of UI benefits; and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides UI for individuals not eligible for regular UI or any extensions to UI or who have exhausted UI benefits.
What do I need to know about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides unemployment insurance (UI) for individuals not eligible for regular UI or any extensions to UI or who have exhausted UI benefits.
The Division of Employment Security (DES) began taking applications for PUA March 24, 2020. If applied before then and were denied, sign back in and apply for PUA. If you applied prior to 4/24/2020 and your claim is still pending, DES is still reviewing eligibility for North Carolina UI. Claimants must wait to apply for PUA. Those eligible for PUA include:
- Self Employed workers
- Independent contractors
- Workers seeking part-time work
- Workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state UI benefits
What do I need and what can I expect when I apply?
To apply for unemployment insurance and benefits in North Carolina, you will need to contact the North Carolina Department of Employment Services at 1-888-737-0259 or DES.NC.GOV.
What are common disqualifications for unemployment benefits?
There are a few things that would make you ineligible for unemployment benefits.
In North Carolina, quitting your job or being fired from your job would be disqualifications.
For Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you must be unemployed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. You must be able and available to work. However you do not need to be seeking work and filing job applications, which are typically required. These requirements were waived by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's Executive Order Number 118.
What are the options for receiving payments of unemployment insurance benefits?
Unemployment benefits will be paid through direct deposit or debit card.
My employer has called me back to work. What happens if I choose not to return?
Generally, refusing to return to work when an employer requires it will make you ineligible to receive North Carolina unemployment benefits. However, you can appeal citing one of the COVID-19 coronavirus-related reasons cited on the North Carolina Department of Employment Service website.
What if my job wants me back with reduced hours, can I still collect unemployment?
If you are working reduced hours because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the wages you earn will effect the amount of unemployment benefits you are entitled to receive. If you earn $420 per week or more then you will not be able to receive a benefit. Each claimant has a Weekly Earning Allowance, 20% of their benefit amount. That is the amount that a claimant can make before their benefit is impacted.
How long will it take to receive compensation?
Assuming no issue, unemployment benefits normally arrive within 14 days. Due to unprecedented number of claims, processing has been delayed as long as months in some instances.
Do I have to show I am looking for a job?
Normally one must be looking for a job, and submit records showing their job search, in order to receive North Carolina unemployment benefits. However North Carolina Executive Order Number 118 suspended that requirement during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
If you are filing due to COVID-19, you may answer ‘yes’ to this question on your North Carolina Weekly Certification: Did you look for work?
North Carolina Division of Employment Security may request that you create a NCWorks account, where claimants would typically submit documentation of work search.
When do federal benefits run out?
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits, ends July 31.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment insurance benefits; and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides UI for individuals not eligible for regular UI, both end December 31, 2020.
Will I have to pay taxes on unemployment benefits?
Both federal and state taxes must be paid on unemployment benefits. You can choose to have tax withheld when filing your unemployment insurance benefits application.
What is the maximum and minimum benefit?
The Regular Unemployment Benefit maximum is $350 plus the maximum $600 from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for a total of $950 weekly.
The minimum Regular Unemployment Benefit varies based on amount in your regular base period.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) could still be $600 PUA minimum could be $132/$134 weekly + $600.
If I am a self-employed worker or independent contractor – can I apply for unemployment insurance?
Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, independent contractors and self-employed works can apply for unemployment benefits. In addition, you can apply for PUA if you lack sufficient work history, or if you or a family member has tested positive for coronavirus.
What if my application is denied?
To initiate an appeal, you will need to appeal in writing online or through the mail to the North Carolina Division of Employment Security within 10 days from the mailing date on the notice of determination. (The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is not currently representing clients on appeal. )
What services is CCLA providing around Unemployment in this moment?
The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is providing individuals with assistance related to North Carolina unemployment insurance and benefits. You can call them at 980-256-3979.
Chapter four: Interaction with other social services
If I get unemployment benefits, am I in danger of losing other social services?
Unemployment Insurance Benefits count for consideration of eligibility for support programs such as Medicaid, SNAP benefits (better known as Food Stamps), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Some, but not all unemployment benefits MAY count for Medicaid eligibility. That is why it’s important to speak to someone who can help you understand your eligibility and what you need to do to apply or continue receiving them while also using unemployment benefits.
For Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP or NC Health Choice), the $600 weekly benefit received under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is not considered in determining eligibility. It appears that other forms of unemployment benefits (benefits distributed by N.C.’s state program) may be income considered for Medicaid and CHIP.
Source: Doug Sea, attorney and director of the Family Support and Health Care Program, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
If you need health coverage and have questions about your eligibility for Medicaid or other types of health insurance, contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s health insurance navigator program by calling 980-256-3782.
For SNAP benefits (food stamps), the full amount of unemployment benefits received is considered unearned income. This includes traditional state unemployment insurance benefits, as well as all unemployment benefits received because of the CARES Act, including the $600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). For many households receiving both types of benefits (at least until the FPUC program expires), this means that their unemployment benefits may put their income over the eligibility limit for Food Stamps.
Source: Rebecca Friedman, attorney, Equal Justice Works Fellow Sponsored by Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
If you have questions about your eligibility or need help applying for food stamps, contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy by calling 980-256-3782.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
Regarding Supplemental Security Income (SSI), all types of unemployment benefits are counted as income. However, applying for these benefits does not disqualify an individual from receiving SSI disability benefits. Applying for or receiving benefits based on a disability–including SSI or Medicaid– normally would disqualify an individual from receiving state funded unemployment benefits. But this does not apply to unemployment benefits under the Cares Act.
Source: Doug Sea, attorney and director of the Family Support and Health Care Program, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
If you have questions about how unemployment insurance benefits may impact your SSI or other benefits, contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy by calling 704-376-1600.
Disclaimer: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is monitoring changes to policies and regulations impacting this information. For the most up-to-date information and additional questions, contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s unemployment insurance hotline: 980-256-3979.
If you are entitled to a workers’ compensation payment but end up receiving unemployment benefits during the same week that you were also due a workers’ comp payment, North Carolina law allows for your worker’s comp to be reduced in some circumstances.
Chapter five: Avoid scams.
How to spot an unemployment scam
In every crisis there are people who are waiting to take advantage of those suffering. Already some states like Washington and Massachusetts are reporting cases of unemployment benefit fraud.
COVID-19 scammers are collecting personal data by offering to help individuals file for unemployment claims, according to the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor.
The scammers may ask for social security numbers, dates of birth, and credit card information to assist you. Unsolicited calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits are several ways individual scanners have targeted victims.
- Do not pay to file for benefits. File for free online using links from the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.
- Do not give out personal information over text message or e-mail. When you file for unemployment benefits, the state's unemployment insurance agency will ask you to share personal information related to your unemployment and your recent earnings. This information could include social security number, name, address, employer, and earnings. You should only give this information through a secure web portal.
To know if your web portal is secure, look for "https://" instead of "http://" in your web browser's URL bar. The 's' stands for secure. Some browsers may even show you a lock icon to indicate the connection is secure. You should also never type sensitive information over public or untrusted wireless networks.
- Confirm the website you are using is official. Beware of fakes. CareerOneStop is sponsored by the Department of Labor and compiles the appropriate links and phone contact information for each state's unemployment benefits system.
To report an allegation of fraud involving unemployment insurance benefits or other U.S. Department of Labor activities or programs, contact the Office of Inspector General online or by phone: 202-693-6999 or 1-800-347-3756.