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COVID-19 has affected the job security for many of us across the country. Many individuals have lost their job due to the complete closure of job locations or have had their hours drastically reduced. Others have had to stop working because they became ill, have had to care for someone that became ill, or because their children’s schools shut down and have had no choice but to stop working. Without a source of income, many people have to turn to unemployment insurance and rely on it to help pay their expense during this crisis. Our office has received many calls from you regarding eligibility for this benefit. Here, we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions for you.  


What is unemployment insurance?

Traditional unemployment Insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. To collect benefits, you must be ready, willing, and able to work, and actively looking for work during each week in which you are claiming benefits.

What are the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance in New York?

Unemployment benefits are only available for people with work authorization 

  • Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds
    • A calculate estimated benefit rates, click here
  • You work less than 4 days per week and earn $504 or less
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by New York law
  • You must be available to work

How do I apply for unemployment insurance?

The best way to file a new unemployment insurance claim is online at any day of the week between 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM. You should file your claim the first week that you lose your job. If you are filing a new unemployment insurance claim, the day you should apply is based on the first letter of your last name.

  • A – F file on Monday
  • G – N file on Tuesday
  • O – Z file on Wednesday
  • If you missed your day: File Thursday – Sunday.

What do I do if I am unable to file for unemployment insurance online?

  • You may contact the Department of Labor at 1-888-209-8124. Due to high call volumes, they have expanded their hours. You can now call Monday through Friday: 8am to 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 7:30am to 8:00pm. 
  • Keep in mind that there are very high call volumes, so it will require patience and persistence to reach a representative.
  • Additionally, if you apply over the phone, you will automatically receive your benefits via debit card unless you had a previous claim and you received them by direct deposit.

Do they offer language assistance?

Yes, use your phone keypad to enter the number for the language you choose. A voice recording will offer you these choices: English, Spanish, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Creole, Korean, Polish and All other languages

What do I need to apply?

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your driver license or Motor Vehicle ID card number (if you have either one)
  • Your complete mailing address and zip code
  • A phone number where you can be reached
  • Your Alien Registration card number (if you are not a U.S. Citizen and have a card)
  • Names and addresses of all your employers for the last 18 months, including those in other states
  • Employer Registration number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) of your most recent employer (FEIN is on your W-2 forms)
  • If you choose direct deposit of your weekly benefits, you will need your bank routing and checking account numbers.

When should I file my claim?

You should file your claim in the first week you worked less than four days and earned a gross income of less than $504. If you worked four or more days or earned more than $504, you should file the following week.

Can I file a claim if I am working part-time or have reduced work due to COVID-19?

If you work less than four days and earn a gross income of less than $504, then you should be eligible to receive partial insurance.

How much can I receive in benefits?

This depends on your wages. The maximum you may receive per week is $504. The minimum PUA rate is calculated by the US Department of Labor, quarterly, as 50% of the average weekly benefit amount in each state. For January 1, 2020 – March 31, 2020, the minimum benefit rate is $172. For April 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020, the minimum benefit rate is $182. If you are working part time, each day, or part of the day, of work causes your weekly benefit rate to drop by one-quarter.

What if I already submitted my application and haven’t been able to reach a DOL specialist?

People who have already applied online and were told to call to finish their application also will receive a call back in 72 hours. You may get an automated call from DOL informing you that a representative will call you within 72 hours (if you miss the call from DOL reps, they will call you back). Additionally, DOL representatives are working from home, so your caller ID may show “PRIVATE CALLER.” Anyone calling from DOL will verify their identity by providing: (a) the date you filed your application and (b) the type of claim.

Will I still receive my unemployment benefits even if I apply past the first day that I became unemployed?

Yes, any claim you file will be backdated to the date you became unemployed. If you are eligible, you will be paid for all benefits due.

I keep getting bumped from the UI call center. Will my claim be processed?

You will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. Your claim will start on the day you were separated from your employer. There is unprecedented call volume and web traffic. Please be patient and keep trying. It is best to apply online. Also, DOL will backdate any claims that are not timely processed due to any issues with the DOL website or UI call center.

When should I expect to get my first payment?

Your first payment will generally be made 2-3 weeks from the time you file your claim. The Department of Labor uses that time to review and process your application for benefits. This is why you may see your claim status as “pending.”

Do I only apply once for the entire time I am unemployed?

You file a claim when you file for unemployment benefits the first time. Although you don’t repeat that initial process, all claimants must also claim weekly benefits for each week they are unemployed and meet the eligibility requirements. This is also called “certifying for benefits.” 

You can start claiming as soon as you submit your application, and every week following, even as you wait for confirmation that you have been approved.

When do I certify for benefits?

For the purposes of Unemployment Insurance, a week runs from Monday to Sunday. You must file your claim for the previous week on the last day of that week (Sunday) through the following Saturday. Any certification made on a Sunday is for the week ending that day.

How do I certify for benefits?

You can do so online, by logging in to You may also certify by phone by calling 1-888-581-5812 during business hours.

Can my employer retaliate against me for accessing benefits?

State law provides all workers with the right to file for unemployment and the labor law provides that an employer cannot retaliate against a worker’s engagement in a protected activity. If you suspect retaliation or unjustified decrease in payroll because you applied for UI, you can speak with an unemployment lawyer for free through VOLS Unemployed Workers Project (347-521-5720) or Legal Services NYC hotline at 917-661-4500 (Mon-Fri, 10 am – 4 pm).


How have the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance changed due to the coronavirus?

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed which provides additional Unemployment Insurance Assistance to workers impacted by COVID-19. This new law provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

PUA extends eligibility to individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for unemployment insurance. These individual include: 

  • the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and farmers
  • people diagnosed with COVID-19 or that have COVD-19 symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis
  • people living with a household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • people providing care for a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19
  •  primary caregivers for children unable to attend school or another facility due to COVID-19
  • people unable to reach their place of employment due to an imposed quarantine or people who were advised by a medical provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19
  • people who were scheduled to start a new job but cannot reach the workplace as a direct result of COVID-19
  • people who became major breadwinners because the head of the household died from COVID-19
  • people who quit a job as a direct result of COVID-19
  • if place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19
  • people have insufficient work history and affected by COVID-19, and 
  • people otherwise not qualified for regular or extended UI benefits and affected by COVID-19

You will not be eligible for PUA if you can telework, or if you are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits (regardless of meeting a category listed above).

How do I apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

A new application now allows New Yorkers to be able to simply fill out one form to either receive unemployment insurance or pandemic unemployment assistance. The application is available at, or by calling 1-888-209-8124.

I am an older worker and/or am immuno-compromised. I would like to leave my job because I am uncomfortable that I have increased risk. Am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

Generally speaking, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance if you voluntarily leave your job. Before leaving work, please consider speaking with your employer for alternatives that may be available such as using sick time or annual leave, requesting a reasonable accommodation such as working remotely, asking your employer for a leave of absence, or seeking temporary disability benefits. If alternative options are not available, you may file a claim for unemployment insurance. You should consider obtaining medical documentation that identifies any work restrictions and submit that with your claim. If you are found ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits, you may be eligible for benefits under PUA.


What is Pandemic Unemployment Compensation?

PUC is an additional $600 per week, on top of regular benefits, to all unemployment insurance recipients through July 31, 2020. This is automatically added to all unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance benefits.

What is Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation?

PEUC is an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, beyond the 26 weeks already provided by New York State, for a total of 39 weeks of coverage. Even if you have exhausted your 26 weeks of benefits through previous unemployment insurance benefits, you can still receive the additional 13 weeks of benefits.