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Navigating CARES Act Unemployment Assistance

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • March 30, 2020

March 30, 2020—The entertainment industry is experiencing an unprecedented increase in unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the CARES Act passed by congress last week will provide $260 billion in enhanced and expanded unemployment insurance (UI) to thousands of entertainment workers throughout the country who are being furloughed, laid off, or finding themselves without work through no fault of their own.

There are a number of resources (listed below) that can help you navigate UI or the benefits provided by the CARES Act, but the first and foremost should be your state’s unemployment office website, as most of the COVID-19 economic relief funding will be distributed through state UI programs.

Links to each state’s unemployment office website(s)

National Employment Law Project fact sheet on who qualifies for CARES Act aid

Helpful graphic provided by the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees on navigating COVID-19 UI

Please keep in mind that as the unemployment rate continues to increase, many state unemployment offices may be overwhelmed by the influx in applications. This makes it even more crucial that individuals start the process as early as possible and be persistent even if phone lines and online forms are malfunctioning.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) unemployment benefits update
The federal government is allowing new options for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits 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.

March 30 update
Under the newly signed federal CARES Act, states are able extend unemployment benefits to people who were not previously covered by Unemployment Insurance, including:

  • Self-employed workers
  • 1099-independent contractor or gig workers
  • Workers with a limited work history

The new law also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to six months, and 13 weeks of benefits on to the number of weeks a state currently pays benefits. Read more at COVID-19 Information.

Also find more resources for people who are recently unemployed, including information about additional benefit programs, at Worker ReEmployment.

Other resources for workers and employers
Federal, state, and local governments continue to develop resources and programs to deliver assistance to those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. CareerOneStop will continue to update this page as information is available. Check back here and also visit Coronavirus Resources from the U.S. Department of Labor for ongoing updates.


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