Government Benefits


The U.S. Department of Labor's unemployment insurance programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements.

Unemployment insurance is a joint state-federal program that provides cash benefits to eligible workers. Each state administers a separate unemployment insurance program, but all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law.


Am I Eligible?

Each state sets its own unemployment insurance benefits eligibility guidelines, but you usually qualify if you:

  • Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
  • Meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a "base period." (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.)
  • Meet any additional state requirements you’ll find on your state’s Department of Labor website.


Immigrant Workers*:

  • In most states, to be eligible for unemployment insurance you have to have been a citizen, a lawful permanent resident, have work authorization, or in some states be permanently residing under color of law, when you earned wages; and
  • You have to have work authorization now (because you have to be ready, willing, and able to work), although there may be exceptions due to COVID-19 depending on your immigration status and your state.

*We advise you to reach out to your union rep for guidance and support through the application process or to consult with a lawyer. Your union can connect you to one.


Visit this comprehensive website with links for finding state unemployment offices, applying for unemployment, accessing your state’s paid sick leave and disability insurance, assistance with job searches, information about job training programs, and more:

Information about unemployment insurance and sources of other governmental assistance programs can be found here:



Enter your zip code into the Feeding America food bank database. They will connect you with your local food bank who can walk you through the application process and assist you in determining if you maybe eligible for food stamps - now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – and other nutrition programs for your family. Visit



The federal government recently signed into law expanded rights under FMLA and access to paid sick leave in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Employers with less than 500 employees will be required to provide more comprehensive paid sick leave and family leave benefits related to COVID-19. The sick leave includes two weeks of fully paid leave to self-quarantine or seek treatment or testing for COVID-19, and two weeks at two-thirds pay to care for a child if schools or childcare facilities are closed. The family leave allows workers to take at least 10 weeks of leave at, at least, two-thirds original pay after a two-week unpaid period.

  • How will you benefit from the federal FMLA and Sick Leave Benefits? Review the chart to see which may apply to you. 


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  • If you live in New York State, the state also recently passed a series of COVID-19 emergency paid family leave and paid sick benefits. Review the chart to see how each benefit will apply to you. 


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