For many in Charlotte, applying for unemployment involves wading through a sea of long wait times over the phone, lengthy and confusing restrictions, and a website whose server isn’t equipped to handle the influx of applicants brought on by the pandemic.
Ever since the signing of President Biden’s The American Rescue Plan on March 11, the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, an organization dedicated to providing those in need with information, advice and resources, has seen a large uptick in calls. The bill lightened many restrictions regarding who is eligible for unemployment benefits and how past recipients will be taxed on what they received last year.
With new opportunities for eligibility, Charlotteans can lean on Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Unemployment Insurance Hotline for assistance in deciphering the new plan and what that means for them.
The overwhelming volume of applications that followed the implementation of new assistance programs under the federal CARES Act, which has now been extended through September 6, 2021, has caused significant delays, making the process more confusing than ever for applicants trying to apply. According to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, The American Rescue Plan and the extension of the CARES Act includes the following changes:
- A $300 increase in weekly benefits on top of what workers were already receiving
- Starting April 24, benefits are now available for part-time, contracted, freelance, and self-employed worker under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program
- Elsewhere around the country, households with incomes under $150,000 can exclude $10,200 of last year’s unemployment benefits from being federally taxed as income. Due to state law, however, this does not apply in North Carolina.
- Workers who exhausted the initial unemployment benefits from the state can extend through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program
If I received benefits last year, will it be taxed as income?
Yes. The portion of the bill waiving taxes for $10,200 of last year’s unemployment benefits does not apply to North Carolina.
When should I make a new claim?
Claims last for a 52-week period, so workers who first received benefits in April of last year should look into filing a new claim now.
Should I keep completing my work search activity each week?
In North Carolina, anyone who applies for unemployment after March 15, 2021 — including those who file a claim for a new benefit year — has to complete work search activities each week to receive benefits.
If I’m still waiting to hear back about an application in weeks ago, will I lose out on the benefits I would have received during that time?
No, North Carolinians can expect back pay for any benefits they may have missed while waiting on their applications.
For more information on unemployment benefits, head to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s FAQ page. Anyone needing assistance can call the Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project hotline 980-256-3979 and leave a message to receive assistance in English or Spanish.