Filing for North Carolina Unemployment Due to COVID-19 Disruptions

by Heather Newton on March 23, 2020

Update 4/1/2020: The federal stimulus package will make an additional $600 per week available for unemployment benefits starting the week of April 4, 2020. Independent contractors will be eligible to apply. The NC Division of Employment Security is waiting on federal guidance for how to administer independent contractor claims. If you are an independent contractor, it will be key for you to establish what your income was before COVID-19 reduced it. Gather as much documentation as possible (contracts, pay records, 1099 forms, etc). Create an account and begin the application process as described below.

I’m putting on my Employment Lawyer hat to provide general advice on filing and appealing unemployment claims if you have lost your job due to business closures or reduced hours resulting from COVID-19. This is general advice only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For individualized advice you should seek the advice of an attorney.

If you have lost your job, or experienced a reduction in pay of 15% or a reduction in hours of 50% due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits. In some cases, if you suffered reduced hours and are still working for your employer, you can draw partial unemployment benefits.

You should apply as soon as possible after the loss of employment, even if you aren’t sure you are eligible. DES has a Youtube channel with helpful videos showing you how to set up an account, file your claim, and upload documents in support of your claim. You can file online through the Division of Employment Security (“DES”) website here. Their website has at times been overwhelmed with the number of recent claims but filing online is preferable to filing by phone.

If possible, you should discuss your claim first with your employer to make sure they know that they will not be charged (or experience an increased experience rating which could cost them money) if your layoff or reduction in pay or hours is due to COVID-19. Since there is no cost to the employer, they have no incentive to contest your claim.

You may still be eligible for benefits even if your current employer was not legally required to make unemployment contributions on your behalf, because eligibility for benefits depends on contributions and earnings from the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters (your “base period”), when you may have been working for a different employer. You do need to have earned a certain minimum amount during your base period to be eligible for benefits: DES will calculate this when you apply.

When you apply, be sure to upload any documents that support your version of the the facts regarding why you lost your job or suffered reduced hours.

If your claim is denied, carefully read the decision, which explains how and when to appeal.

You can read the Governor’s March 17, 2020 Executive Order 118 here, which made changes to the normal requirements for unemployment. For example, if you have lost your job due to COVID-19, you will not have to certify each week that you have contacted at least five employers to search for work.

This information is current as of March 23, 2020. As you know, COVID-19 is causing rapid changes in policies and practices. I will do my best to keep this article updated with any changes relating to North Carolina unemployment claims.


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