Answers to the most frequently asked questions about unemployment insurance and stimulus package benefits while providing COVID Care support.


Trying to figure out if you're eligible for and how to apply for COVID stimulus and unemployment benefits is actually quite hard. We've received a lot of the same questions over the past few weeks, which we've outlined below along with our best attempts at answering them. We hope it helps!

We’ve received a ton of great questions about the COVID stimulus package and unemployment benefits over the past few weeks. Here are our answers.

If you’re not sure yet if you qualify for unemployment insurance or COVID benefits, you can take our quiz to find out 😎.

  1. What’s in the COVID stimulus package and how does it differ from unemployment?
  2. How do I apply for the stimulus package benefits?
  3. What’s the deal for self-employed workers?
  4. Can I still qualify if my income has been reduced due to COVID?
  5. How do I apply for the $1,200?
  6. How do I complete the unemployment insurance application if I’m self-employed?
  7. Why haven’t I received approval yet?

#1 What’s in the COVID stimulus package and how does it differ from unemployment benefits?

What does the the CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package, actually include? Here are the most important elements for workers to know:

  • $600 per week for anyone on unemployment insurance. This is in addition to regular unemployment insurance benefits. 
  • Self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and freelancers are eligible for unemployment insurance (and the extra $600/week).
  • Unemployment insurance will last an additional 13 weeks 
  • You're eligible for a one-time direct deposit of $1,200 if you made less than $75,000 in 2019 or 2018 (if you haven't filed). If you made less than 99,000, you will get a reduced amount, and if you made more, you likely won't receive anything. You can check on the status of your economic impact payment at IRS Get My Payment website. 

#2 How do I get the $600/week in COVID stimulus benefits?

The only application you need to complete is for Unemployment Insurance (UI). If your claim is approved you will automatically receive the $600/week in addition to your regular UI payment. The $600/week will last until July 31, 2020 as long as you remain on UI.

If you’re already receiving unemployment, you should automatically start receiving the $600/week. No additional application is needed.

The roll out process has been slow, so if you haven’t received your benefits yet, it should be on the way soon.

#3 Alright cool, but what If I’m self-employed, an independent contractor, freelancer, or a gig worker?

The CARES Act made unemployment insurance available to self-employed folks who have lost wages or their jobs due to COVID. Once you’re approved for UI, you’ll start receiving regular UI benefits as well as the additional $600/week stipend.

#4 Do I still qualify if my income has been reduced due to COVID?

If your income has been reduced, but you’re still making some money, you can receive partial unemployment benefits as long as you're earning less than your state’s weekly maximum benefit. For example, the maximum weekly benefit in California is $450 per week, so you’ll only qualify for unemployment if you’re making roughly less than that each week. Each state operates a bit differently, so double check on your state’s website

This goes for everyone who now qualifies for UI, including self-employed workers. 

#5 How do I apply for the $1,200?

You don’t! The amount will be directly deposited into your account or sent via check. The amount you receive will be based on your adjusted gross income (basically all of your income minus certain deductions like student loan payments) from your 2019 federal tax return, or 2018 if you haven’t filed yet. There is an income limitation. If you made less than $75,000, you're eligible for the full amount, and if you made less than $99,000, you'll receive a reduced amount. If you made over $99,000, you're not eligible. You can estimate your calculation here 🤓.

Timing is TBD. Here’s the latest information:

  • First wave of checks will be sent the week of April 13 for those who have set up direct deposit with the IRS.
  • If you don’t have direct deposit you can set it up here as soon as the online portal launches (expected mid-April)
  • You can check on the status of your economic impact payment at IRS Get My Payment website. 

#6 How do I complete the unemployment application if I’m self-employed?

When you’re completing the unemployment insurance application, certain sections might be a bit confusing such as when you're asked to list your current supervisor.

First, you should see if your state has provided guidance on their UI portal (look for it in the COVID-19 resource page or FAQs!). Many states, however, haven’t shared clear guidance yet.  The best we’ve seen so far has been from New York. It won’t be exactly the same, but if you’re stuck and can’t reach anyone on the phone for help, you might want to check out their instructions.

#7 Why haven’t I received approval yet?

It usually takes ~2ish weeks for UI claims to be approved, but it could take much longer as states try to keep up with the massive surge in demand. Benefits will be applied retroactively to when you lost employment/wages etc. Here’s also a few things that you’ll need to do while you wait:

  • Monitor your accounts including email, your benefits dashboard, and your real-life mail for additional questionnaires, instructions for a phone call, and other communications.
  • You’ll likely need to continue certifying your benefits each week EVEN IF you haven’t been approved. You should be able to do this from your online dashboard. Check your state’s requirement because they might decline you if you don’t!
  • Check your mail! You might also be sent a debit card or check in the mail if you’ve been approved without a heads up.


We got you covered. Take our quiz to receive a personalized unemployment insurance guide. Or, Drop us a message, hit us up on le socials, or sign-up for a free call if you want to talk shop!

-Your friends at Mento

Note: We do everything we can to stay up to date, but we in no way make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy of the material contained herein, and, as such, you should not rely on it. Lastly, nothing contained herein should be construed as creating an attorney-client or other contractual relationship.

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