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State to provide $350 a week for COVID-19 related unemployment

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Unemployment insurance claims continue to grow as employers are shuttering as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

From March 16 to Friday, there have been more than 381,000 claims filed, of them 87% are COVID-19 related.

In a March 17 executive order, Gov. Roy Cooper announced changes to insurance benefits for people who were separated from employment, who have had their work hours reduced or who are prevented from working due to medical condition caused by COVID-19 or due to communicable disease control measures. 

The order waived the waiting period and work search requirements. When filling out the weekly certification, applicants can answer “yes” to “Did you look for work?”

To file a claim, visit des.nc.gov or call 888-737-0259. NC Department of Commerce Employment Security warns that due to high volume of calls, applicants may experience a long wait time.

A social security number, information about most recent employment and pay, work history for the last two years and a bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit will be needed.

According to NC Department of Commerce Employment Security, after filing a claim it takes about 14 days to receive the first payment.

The maximum benefit is $350 a week for 12 weeks.

Applicants will also receive an additional $600 per week in federal benefits from April 4 to July 31. The Division of Employment Security is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the new federal unemployment assistance programs.

Employment Securities is also waiting for feedback if independent contractors and self-employed works are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits under federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

N.C. House Select Committee on COVID-19’s Economic Working Group met last month to discuss some of the changes needed for unemployment insurance claims.

Currently employers can’t file unemployment benefits on behalf of their employees who may be affected by COVID-19.

Co-chair of the committee Rep. Julia Howard, R-67, said at the March 25 meeting the legislature needs to create a way to allow employers to make claims.

“We’ve known for at least two week that the most critical thing that we could do and it does require legislation is to allow the attached claims for the department,” she said at the meeting. “One employer could apply for 300 people as opposed to 300 individual claims. I don’t know how we do that. I don’t know if the governor could do it under an executive order.”

The group’s bill draft to provide temporary flexibility would eliminate the one-week waiting period, eliminate the work search requirements, does not charge employer accounts, eliminates in-person interviews, allows employers to file claims on behalf of employees and eliminated the first quarter employer payroll tax that is due May 1.

The working group will meet again on Tuesday.

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