Resources for Workers Impacted by Coronavirus Layoffs and Lost Wages

ByLaura Dorwart

Updated: December 8, 2023

ByLaura Dorwart

Updated: December 8, 2023

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As businesses respond to COVID-19 changes, the number of coronavirus layoffs is expected to rise significantly in the coming months.

Still, due to recent legislation designed to offer relief to struggling workers during the pandemic, there are plenty of resources to get you through this. We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to make sure you stay afloat — and as financially healthy as possible — during the coronavirus outbreak.

What Should I Do If I Lost My Job Due to Coronavirus?

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If you’ve lost your job in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, efforts are being made to help. Access to unemployment benefits — which vary by state but usually cover around 45% of your typical pay — has been greatly expanded, thanks to a new coronavirus relief package.

Under the new coronavirus unemployment insurance guidelines, if you’re laid off, on hiatus, quarantined or caring for a sick family member, you may be eligible to receive unemployment. In many states, unemployment waiting periods are also being waived so that you can get relief faster.

Officials recommend that you file your unemployment claim as soon as you can to expedite the process. Even if you think you won’t qualify, you may have much more of a chance of filing successfully due to the current public health crisis. If you’re denied at first, don’t be afraid to appeal.

Here are some crucial resources to help you find out if you qualify for unemployment benefits during the outbreak.

It is also advisable to review your monthly budget and begin contacting your landlord or lender, car and renters insurance companies, and utility companies to discuss delayed payment options. In some instances, it may be a good idea to compare homeowners insurance quotes or car insurance quotes for lower rates or financial hardship discounts.

How to File for Unemployment in Your State

Unemployment claims are filed on a state level. If you've lost your job as a result of the coronavirus, you can apply for unemployment benefits through your state's individual program. Because states are experiencing a high volume of claims, filing a claim online through your state's website can help you avoid a long wait time over the phone.

What If I Have to Miss Work Because of COVID-19?

Whether because of a sick family member, coronavirus layoffs or worrying symptoms, many employees are finding themselves having to miss work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are entitled to a certain amount of unpaid medical leave to handle medical emergencies or to care for sick or disabled family members.

A recently-passed coronavirus stimulus package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, allows part-time employees and gig workers (such as Uber drivers) to access paid medical leave as well. Take a look at the following resources to see if you qualify for paid leave.

Where Can Freelancers, Small Business Owners and Workers Go for Help?

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Freelancers and gig workers have, in many cases, been hit the hardest financially by the global coronavirus pandemic. They don’t enjoy many of the same benefits and security as full-time, salaried employees, making them all the more vulnerable to financial stress in a crisis.

If you’re a freelancer or gig worker, consider finding a temporary work-from-home job or project to fill in the gaps (and to keep yourself and others healthy). Meanwhile, if you’re a small business owner in certain states, you may qualify for a low-interest emergency loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

Here are some key coronavirus resources for self-employed workers, small business owners, and artists.

How Does the CARES Act Help People Impacted by Coronavirus Lost Wages?

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. The $2 trillion stimulus package provides emergency economic relief for families, individuals, employees and businesses who have been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Through the CARES Act, every individual American who makes $75,000 or less annually, and every married couple who makes $150,000 or less annually, will receive a stimulus check. Eligible individuals will get $1,200, while married couples will get $2,400. Families and individuals with at least one dependent minor under 17 years of age can receive an additional $500 per child.

For every additional $100 you make per year over $75,000, you will receive $5 less on your relief check. You won’t be eligible for a stimulus check if you make $99,000 per year or more as an individual, or over $198,000 as a married couple. The earning limit is based on your adjusted gross wage.

Unemployment Payments Will Increase

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Additionally, the CARES Act makes several key changes to unemployment benefits that will help recently laid-off workers and people who have lost wages due to the coronavirus.

- States will continue to pay the same unemployment benefits they normally would.
But, for the next four months, an additional $600 will be paid out weekly by the federal government. So, for example, if you would typically receive $400 each week in state unemployment insurance benefits, the CARES Act allows you to receive $1,000 weekly.
- The bill also increases the unemployment relief period by 13 weeks.
Eligible workers can receive unemployment insurance payments for an additional 13 weeks through the CARES Act extension, provided they haven’t gotten a new job in that time.
- The CARES Act also creates an emergency Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, effective through Dec. 31, 2020.
This provision of the stimulus package aims to help freelancers and independent contractors, who are often left behind in unemployment insurance programs.
- Gig workers and self-employed individuals will now be eligible for unemployment.
People with limited work histories are also newly eligible for unemployment benefits through the end of the year.

Note that, if you fall into one of the above categories, you will still have to apply for and be denied unemployment through your state before you apply to receive it through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Financial Resources for People Affected by Coronavirus

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Workers aren’t the only ones worried about their financial well-being during the COVID-19 crisis. Parents who depend on child care, student loan borrowers, homeowners and renters are all affected as well.

Luckily, some initiatives to ease the financial strain of coronavirus have already been passed. Federal student loans aren’t accruing interest at the moment due to a waiver. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for FHA-insured single-family mortgages.

Still, many families are finding themselves in a tight spot financially during the outbreak. These resources could help you if you’re feeling the coronavirus economic impact.

Expert Advice on Your Next Steps After Losing Income

If you recently lost your job or crucial work hours due to the coronavirus outbreak, experts have a few key suggestions to keep yourself and your family afloat.

What should an employee do if they are laid off or lose income due to the coronavirus outbreak?

Richard Prinzi Jr.
Richard Prinzi Jr.:

Apply for unemployment through your state’s unemployment insurance website as soon as possible.

What’s different now in terms of the unemployment application process due to the current crisis?

Richard Prinzi Jr.
Richard Prinzi Jr.:

There is now no wait or holding period. The federal supplement is now being paid through the states and will pay retroactively. This now goes for gig/freelance/self-employed workers too, for the first time.

What are the next steps for a small business owner who loses income during the COVID-19 crisis?

Richard Prinzi Jr.
Richard Prinzi Jr.:

Apply for SBA grants and loans. That’s what I’m telling my clients to do. The SBA updated the applications to make them really simple.

These programs have never been available to 1099 workers. Now Uber drivers should be applying for them. They’re giving everyone a raise. Apply for everything. The worst thing that can happen is they deny you.

How can freelancers, self-employed workers, and independent contractors apply for relief funding?

Richard Prinzi Jr.
Richard Prinzi Jr.:

Apply for unemployment, as well as for SBA grants and loans on Check the box for the $10K grant. There are forgivable loans too.

There’s also a payroll protection program, PPP, through the SBA. You need to keep your entire payroll working to receive the PPP.

What should self-employed workers or freelancers do if they lose income due to COVID-19?

Michele Evermore
Michele Evermore:

Self-employed workers and independent contractors should be eligible for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, but getting systems up and ready to process these benefits will vary by state. Workers may have to wait to submit until their state website says that it is now processing the new claims. They have to reprogram all of their systems to accommodate the new program, so it may take a couple of weeks for those new systems to be ready.

What should someone do if they are initially denied for unemployment benefits?

Michele Evermore
Michele Evermore:

Unfortunately, we are asking the system to do a lot all at once — process a historic number of claims and roll out the biggest expansion of unemployment insurance in the history of the program. A lot more people will get a benefit, they just need to be persistent.

Comprehensive Government Resources for Coronavirus

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As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so will the government response. in addition to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was signed on March 27, 2020, additional efforts will continue to improve the economic situation for people across the country. Here’s where you can find all the latest updates on financial assistance, public health information and government action moving forward.

Remain Vigilant and Financially Proactive

The coronavirus outbreak has caused financial stress and strain for millions of American families. Remember, though, that there are countless others in the same boat. U.S. legislation is currently being introduced that will continue to help us keep our heads above water. Stay informed and cautious as the situation evolves.

Meanwhile, try to stay as financially proactive as you can. Continue to make your student loan payments, contribute to your 401(k), and stick to your budget as closely as possible. Your bank account will thank you later when the crisis lifts.

About Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart headshot

Laura Dorwart is a writer living in Oberlin, Ohio, with her family. She has bylines at VICE, The New York Times, The Guardian and many others. She has a Ph.D. from UCSD, an MFA in nonfiction writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and experience in UX writing and copywriting for brands such as KeyBank. Follow her work at