Across the country, almost 17 million workers filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks due to COVID-19. That includes more than 300,000 people from Indiana. If you lost your job, had hours cut back, or have to stay home due to illness or childcare, there’s a good chance you are eligible for unemployment insurance – money meant to help ends meet while you’re out of work.
We’ve received tons of questions from people asking who’s eligible, when benefits begin and how to apply. We’ll try to answer those questions below. If you can’t find the answer, you can check the Department of Workforce Development’s constantly updated FAQ page or email us.
Who can’t get unemployment insurance right now?
People who are self-employed — like small business owners, independent contractors, and gig workers — are not eligible for unemployment insurance right now. However, the state still requires you to file a state claim even though you will be denied. When you are denied, you shouldn’t need to appeal the claim, but you should save that denial document.
This is because you need to prove that you can’t receive state money in order to access federal funds. And although the federal CARES Act was passed, Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development hasn’t updated its electronic system to handle self-employed claims.
Most people who have quit their job for reasons — including safety concerns — other than child care or dealing with COVID-19 illness when your employer is deemed essential and still operating are typically not eligible. There’s a chance you might be eligible, but you’ll have to prove that a “reasonably prudent person” would quit in your situation.
“You have to do everything you possibly can to work it out with your employer ahead of the fact and you’ve got to make a decision based on your own health and safety,” says Josh Richardson, the Department of Workforce Development’s chief of staff. “We’re going to have to look at it after the fact to determine if you’re eligible.”
I’m still not sure…
If you might be eligible but aren’t sure there is no penalty for applying. Stephen Woodbury from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Unemployment Research says you should apply anyway.
“If you think there’s even a remote possibility that you might be eligible, apply,” Woodbury says. “The worst thing that can happen is you find out you’re not eligible. But do it.”
What will I need to apply?
- To already have been laid off, furloughed, lost hours, or lost income (If you’ve been told of a future layoff, you have to wait until it actually happens to file for unemployment benefits.)
- Access to a computer or smartphone. (Although DWD urges everyone to file online, as of April 6 you can also file by phone at 1-800-298-6650.)
- A valid email address
- Driver’s license or identification (does not need to be Indiana issued)
- Permanent address
- Phone number
- Social security number
- Employer information including company name, address, and phone number
- Dates of employment
- Bank account information (if you want unemployment money direct deposited)
Creating A Profile on Uplink - Indiana’s Unemployment System
- Be aware that lots of people are applying all at once. You’ll most likely see some error messages like “The connection must be reset.” Don’t worry: Just keep refreshing the page in your internet browser until it works.
- Go to Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development unemployment webpage and find the Uplink unemployment application.
- When you start, it will ask for a lot of personal information. According to Stephen Woodbury at the Upjohn Institute, most of this is to verify that you are who you say you are.
- When you are asked to select a WorkOne region, pick the region that matches where your main employer is located.
- It will also ask you to enter personal information like height and weight. It's used to verify your identity so make sure this matches your driver’s license information.
Creating A Claim for Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Some of this wording hasn’t been updated since the COVID-19 outbreak started, so don’t feel bad if you get confused. (Example: There’s a part where it says you can’t receive unemployment if you’ve been hospitalized. This doesn’t apply to people who have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.
- You’ll get to a screen that says “To Do” at the top. Click on the link to start filing your claim.
- When you get to a screen that says “What You Need To Know,” that is where you’ll start filling out where you’ve worked. Note that any claim you start will be automatically erased Saturday night at 9 p.m. So if you don’t finish, you’ll have to start over. At this point, you have the option to save and logout — but you shouldn’t have to do this unless you need to get more information to fill out your work history.
- On the first page of your Employment History, it might already have your employer listed because it pulled that information from your Social Security number.
- On the question: “Which of the following scenarios best describes your status with this employer?” Most people affected by COVID-19 will select “no work was available” or “I am still working for this employer” if you’ve lost hours.
- It will ask if you were working on a temporary assignment. This mainly applies to “temp workers” - people who work for a company through a short contract, oftentimes through a hiring agency.
- Where it asks, “Do you have a return to work date?” Even if you do, don’t worry if that date changes due to the outbreak — you can always go back and change that date.
- Once you get to the “Income” section, you’ll start seeing the word “voucher” a lot. It’s basically a once-a-week questionnaire for you to report whatever income you’ve made — or haven’t made — that week.
- You’ll get to a screen where it asks you to note any money you received for vacation time, sick leave, and other time you didn’t use while you were employed there. Make sure you get the amount of vacation pay correct because, in Indiana, it factors into how much unemployment money you get.
- It will ask you if you get “sub pay.” That’s when an employer promises to add to the unemployment benefits so that you get close to what your normal wage would be. Stephen Woodbury says this was once common, but it’s rare now.
Ability To Work:
Once you get to the “Ability To Work” tab, where it says again “What You
Need To Know,” you’ll notice it says that you have to be able to work and actively looking for work. This is outdated and no longer required because of new federal laws that sprung up during the COVID-19 crisis.
- If you’re filing because your job was affected by the outbreak, click “I have some other issue that prevents me from searching for or accepting a full-time job.” Fill in how your job was affected by COVID-19.
- The miscellaneous section will ask questions about union membership and the type of work you’re looking for, and if you have any dependents. It also asks about the rate of pay you would need to take a job. Woodbury says if you’re unsure, put the amount you currently make.
- The very last screen might be the most important: It will ask if your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These questions help determine your eligibility based upon the new federal and state standards.
How do I get my unemployment benefit money?
You can have it directly deposited into your bank account, or in the form of a prepaid debit card linked to a Key2Benefits (managed by KeyBank) account. DWD has more information on that here.
I finished the application. Now what do I do?
The Department of Workforce Development says it will take about three weeks before you see a payment. It will get paid retroactively starting from the week you first filed a claim.
Additionally, people approved to receive benefits should start seeing an extra $600, provided by the CARES Act, starting the week of April 20.
In the meantime, you must complete the “voucher” questionnaires that will start appearing on Uplink every week. The first one will come the Sunday after the week you file your claim and will keep coming until you begin working. It’ll ask you questions about whether you worked and, if so, how much you worked during the last week. (They calculate a week as being Sunday through Saturday.) It will probably give you warnings that you must be looking for work, but this is old language from before laws changed. No matter how you answer, you should still receive your benefits.
If you made a mistake, or if your application gets denied, you can appeal the claim. If all else fails, you can contact DWD by phone or email – but be aware that their response time will most likely be slow.
This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.