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COVID-19

How to get your unemployment benefits if you’ve been affected by COVID-19

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(Image from Mississippi Department of Employment Security)

The economic toll of COVID-19 has left businesses shuttered and millions of Americans out of work. Thursday’s news on the unemployment front showed that 10% of U.S. workers are not working, with claims topping 16 million nationwide.

From a historically low 3.5% unemployment just a few short weeks ago, economists expect the rate will hit double digits for April.

Mississippi is no exception. Unemployment claims have increased exponentially in the past few weeks, slamming the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to meet the demand. The agency has hired 70 people and increased its hours. Still, many Mississippians are frustrated with trying to register and file new claims, reporting that multiple attempts to call the agency have proven unsuccessful.

Normally, Mississippi processes fewer than 1,000 new unemployment claims in a week. Last week, claims topped 46,000.

In the wake of COVID-19, Gov. Tate Reeves loosened the requirements for receiving unemployment benefits, and the federal government is providing the states funds to increase benefits for four months by $600 per week. For those affected by the virus, the state is waiving the one-week waiting period and the requirement to be searching for work to receive benefits.

To be eligible for COVID-19 unemployment benefits, you must meet one of these conditions:

  • You have been laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by your employers due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • You are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency.
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

There are several ways to file an unemployment claim.

  • MDES is strongly encouraging Mississippians to file online at mdes.ms.gov. You can use the website 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • You can call 888-844-3577; however, even with added staff and longer hours (7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week), this could be a frustrating experience. The best time to call is before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. to avoid peak demand.
  • You can also call your local WIN Job Center for assistance. The center lobbies are closed to the public, but staff is on hand to assist you with your claim. In Vicksburg and Warren County, call 601- 619 -2841, or, to find your local center, click here for a list.

To file a claim online:

  • From the MDES website home page, move your cursor over Unemployment Claims at the top of the page to reveal a menu. Click on Register Now.
  • On the page that opens (Applicant Services) scroll down to “I want to register to use the online System” and click on Create New User. Follow the instructions to create an account.
  • After creating your account, go back to the Unemployment Claims dropdown menu and click on the orange File a Claim Online
  • On the next page, click on File Unemployment Application under Claimant Services.
  • Follow the directions and enter information as required. There is more than one page in this part of the process. You will need the following information to complete the form: Your work history information for the past 18 months including employer names, addresses, phone numbers; the reason for separation (select “lack of work” if you’ve been laid off) and dates of employment; your current contact information; your driver’s license or state ID number and Social Security Card.

Once you have completed the application, wait for it to be processed. Check the email you provided with your account for your approval.

Finally, you must file a Weekly Certification to keep your benefits coming.

Find more information on the MDES website.

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