Government Benefits


A new federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where:

  • An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
  • An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
  • An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
  • In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.

State by State: Apply for Unemployment Insurance through your State’s Department of Labor. Find your state benefits page here.



Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who are left out of regular state UI or who have exhausted their state UI benefits (including any Extended Benefits that might become available in the future).

It pays up to 39 weeks of PUA to eligible workers. The program will expire on December 31, 2020, unless otherwise extended.

Note: Workers who are eligible for state UI are not eligible for the PUA program.

Those eligible for PUA include self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, workers seeking part-time work, and workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state UI benefits.


Do you qualify for UI or PUA? Click here and check out this flow chart to figure it out.


New Recovery Payments for Individuals

The CARES Act, passed in response to the coronavirus crisis, directs the federal government to make a one-time payment to most individuals. This fact sheet provides an overview of these recovery payments.

Am I eligible? How do I get my payment?

Read the Fact Sheet for answers to frequently asked questions.


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.



Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition assistance programs are available through your state. Visit your state government benefits page or, a national non-profit whose offices can help you apply.



Know Your Rights on the Federal Paid Sick and FMLA


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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And check out this New York State FAQ on benefits available to workers whose jobs have been impacted by COVID-19.