THE coronavirus epidemic has left record numbers of Americans out of work.
Here's everything you need to know about what the government is doing in response and how you can claim unemployment benefits.
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The coronavirus has now infected more than 68,000 people in the US and prompted a shutdown of businesses in the accommodation and food sectors, entertainment, transportation, and manufacturing.
Data released today by the Department of Labor show that 3.28million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, up from 281,000 the week before.
The figure is the highest ever recorded, quadrupling the last record of 695,000, set the week ending 2 October 1982.
It comes after the Senate passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill, now nearing approval in Congress, to try to support the economy through the coming disruption.
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT?
The Department of Labor's insurance programs provide benefits to workers who meet certain criteria, laid out on the department's website.
The programs are run jointly by the state and federal governments, and each state has its own eligibility guidelines, but you will typically qualify if you:
- Are unemployed through no fault of your own.
- Meet your state's requirements for wages earned or time worked over a so-called "base period" prior to making your claim. In most states the base period is the first four of the last five calendar quarters.
- Meet any other conditions laid out by your state. Details of each state's program can be found here.
HOW DO I CLAIM UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT?
To receive the benefits, you need to file a claim usually with the program run by the state in which you worked.
You can contact the relevant state's program here.
If you worked in multiple state or in a state other than the one in which you now live, you should still contact the program in the state where you live.
They will be able to provide details about how to file a claim in other states if necessary.
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Federal law now gives individual states flexibility to help those affected by the fallout from the coronavirus.
Special circumstances allowed for include if your employed has temporarily ceased trading, if you have been quarantined, or if you left work because of a risk of infection or to care for a family member.
WHAT'S IN THE CORONAVIRUS BILL?
A bill to address the economic impact of the coronavirus was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
It makes $500 billion available for loans and guarantees to business and state and local governments.
The funding includes $50 billion for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo carriers, and $17 billion for businesses critical to maintaining national security.
There is a further $350 billion in loans for companies with 500 employees or fewer, including nonprofits, self-employed people and hotel and restaurant chains with no more than 500 workers per location.
The bill increases weekly benefit by $600 and provides an extra 13 weeks of coverage for anyone who has exhausted existing benefits.
It also includes a number of tax breaks for businesses, including a postponement of payroll tax payments until 2021 or 2022.
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