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Next Steps for Accessing Federal Unemployment

Now the federal government has approved additional unemployment monies, how and when will affected employees and self employed individuals have access is the burning question.

On March 28, 2020, Governor Roy Coopers' office reported that they are awaiting guidance from the Federal government and that payments will be begin two weeks after guidance is received. As of April 8, 2020 the NC Unemployment web site has been updated with FAQs with a page for Federal Unemployment Assistance and confirms that they have received that guidance. Our HR consultants recommend keeping in touch with any affected team members, provide detailed steps for unemployment, and keep them informed about the unemployment process.

Here is what we do know. 


  • The federal CARES Act provides for three temporary unemployment compensation programs due to COVID-19. The first provides an additional $600 in weekly benefits. The second provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits for those who exhaust their state benefits. The third is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is assistance for people who are not typically eligible for state unemployment benefits, such as independent contractors or self-employed workers.
  • The Division of Employment Security has received official guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on how to implement the three unemployment programs of the federal CARES Act. We are working as quickly as possible to modify our systems to make sure people receive proper and accurate payments.
  • DES intends to implement the programs in the following order, according to the web site:
    • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): This program provides an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits to eligible claimants. We are currently testing our system for this program and anticipate making the first payments by April 17, 2020.
    • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): This program provides unemployment compensation for individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance or any extensions to unemployment insurance. This will provide benefits to eligible self-employed workers and independent contractors. We anticipate the system will be ready to accept claims for this assistance around April 25, 2020.
    • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): This program provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. A definitive timeline for completing system updates for this program is not yet available.
    • DES will continue to provide updates about eligibility and how to apply for these benefits on


  • Anyone who filed a claim due to COVID-19 before this legislation may still be eligible for these benefits.
  • If any benefits are owed for a week previously claimed, payment will be made retroactively.
  • Independent contractors and self-employed workers may file for unemployment insurance assistance at any time. However, until system updates are completed, no eligibility determinations will be made for the federal programs.
  • Being found ineligible for state unemployment insurance does not make you ineligible for federal assistance.
  • To report technical difficulties with applying, go here.

How to apply for unemployment.


  • Create an Online Account:
  • File a claim for unemployment
  • Complete your Weekly Certifications
  • Check your claim status

File your Claim. You will need:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Information about your most recent employment and pay
  • Work history for the last two years
  • Bank routing and account numbers for Direct Deposit

TIP: If you are filing due to COVID-19, select ‘coronavirus’ as your reason for separation.

Complete your Weekly Certification. A Weekly Certification is a series of yes/no questions that helps determine your eligibility for benefits each week. If you do not complete a Weekly Certification, you will not be considered for payment.

Log in to your Online Account to complete your weekly certification. If you do not have online access, call 888-372-3453 (Weekly Certifications only).

TIP: N.C. Executive Order 118 allows some requirements to be waived for people filing for unemployment due to COVID-19. If you are filing due to COVID-19, you may answer ‘yes’ to this question on the Weekly Certification: Did you look for work?

Timeline. After you file your claim, your last employer will be given, by law, 10 days to respond to DES. No payment will be released prior to the end of this 10-day period. If there are no issues, individuals typically receive payment within about 14 days of filing their initial claim.

TIP: Remember—you must complete a Weekly Certification for each week, or you will not receive payment.

Employers may also file for unemployment on your behalf.  See notice for details.

If your business is faced with the decision of reducing hours and staff, we recommend consulting with an HR professional so that you can be sure to be in compliance with state and federal laws and explore all your options. NC is now requiring all employers to issue a notice regarding unemployment eligibility at termination.