State News

Latest news on NC coronavirus unemployment benefits

Posted March 27, 2020 2:14 p.m. EDT
Updated April 23, 2020 12:32 p.m. EDT

How do I apply?

Because of the surge in people filing, state officials recommend filing your claim online. Provide your Social Security number, your work history, including how much you were making in your last job and why you are no longer working. The amount of your benefits is based on that information and is determined after you file.

What qualifies me benefits?

  • You are temporarily laid off or had your hours cut because of the coronavirus
  • Your employer has gone out of business or has temporarily shut down operations
  • A medical professional has directed you to quarantine
  • You are self-employed or an independent contractor (new with CARES Act) and can't find work

What information will I need to file?

The process for filing for unemployment in every state can vary. To simplify the process when you’re ready to apply, you should have the following information and documents ready:

  • Social Security Number
  • Copy of Driver’s License/ID Card
  • DD Form 214 if you’ve served in the military
  • Alien Registration Number and Expiration Date if Non-US Citizen
  • Paycheck stub/W-2 Form from your last employer
  • Last employer’s supervisor name
  • Reason for working reduced hours or no longer working
  • Name, the period of employment, and the hourly wages earned from all your employers in the last 18 months including the most recent employer
  • Bank Account Number & Routing Number

What happens after I file?

In North Carolina, there is up to a10-day lag time between filing and a claim being finalized. That's because employers are given time to confirm someone has been laid off or furloughed. Employees released due to COVID-19 shutdowns are asked to select "coronavirus" as the reason for their separation.

The division's assistant secretary has said checks should go out about two weeks after someone files. Governor Roy Cooper announced Sunday, March 29, that the first payments for the unemployment claims related to coronavirus will begin going out that week.

The N.C. Division of Employment Security has received an unprecedented number of unemployment insurance claims -- about 580,000 since March 16. Most are related to COVID-19 and its impact on the economy. By comparison, the state received about 7,500 claims in the first two weeks of March, before the order was issued before an executive order making unemployment benefits easier to obtain.

What can I expect?

Before any new pandemic-related legislation was enacted, North Carolina was paying between 12 and 20 weeks of benefits, averaging $265 a week, with a maximum benefit of $350 a week. The average duration of claims was 8 weeks. Data compiled for the N.C. General Assembly shows the state ranks 41st in its weekly benefit and 49th for average duration of benefits paid.

Additional unemployment benefits have been approved Friday by Congress as part of a more than $2 trillion relief package for individuals and businesses. The federal government will give jobless workers an extra $600 a week on top of their state benefits for four months as part of the $2 trillion stimulus bill the Senate passed unanimously.

The $600-a-week unemployment boost from the federal government should start showing up in North Carolina's unemployment checks next week, a state unemployment official told lawmakers Tuesday, April 7.

The boost will be retroactive to the last week of March.

While the extra money in the legislation wouldn't fully replace the lost wages of some higher-paid workers, it would significantly add to everyone's regular state benefits, which range from $200 to $550 a week, on average, depending on the state.

The stimulus act, known as CARES, calls for a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which would provide jobless benefits to those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of the virus and don't qualify for traditional benefits. This includes independent contractors and the self-employed, who typically aren't eligible to file for unemployment, and so-called gig workers, who aren't eligible in many states including North Carolina.

Federal guidance on that program, passed by Congress late last month, came down Sunday night (April 5), runs 43 pages and "was written by the federal government," Taylor said.

It will likely take another two weeks or so to stand up, N.C. Assistant Secretary for Employment Security ​Lockhart Taylor said April 7.

Among other things, the state will have to confirm that people filing for the payments represent legitimate companies.

New unemployment claims in NC

On March 18, the N.C. Division of Employment Security began sporadically releasing details on the number of cumulative unemployment claims filed since March 16, most of them triggered by layoffs related to the novel coronavirus. See how those numbers compare to cumulative new claims filed during a similar time period in 2019 and the 2009 recession, acccording to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, through July 6, 2020, the last date WRAL collected the data.

Source: N.C. DES, U.S. Department of Labor
Graphic: Tyler Dukes, WRAL

Don't forget to complete weekly eligibility certification online

Governor Roy Cooper announced that the first payments for the unemployment claims related to coronavirus will begin going out this week.

On Saturday, Cooper directed the N.C. Division of Employment Security to begin implementing the unemployment insurance provisions of the federal CARES Act. The division expects to receive guidance from the federal government later this week about how to implement the changes.

Workers applying for benefits must complete weekly certifications in order to receive unemployment insurance payments. The certification is a series of yes-or-no questions that help determine a person’s eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits each week. If an unemployment recipient does not complete a weekly certification, he or she will not receive a payment that week. The certification must be completed through the individual’s online account at

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