How do I qualify for unemployment insurance?

To qualify for unemployment insurance, you must: 

  • Have lost employment through no fault of your own; 
  • Have enough prior earnings from employment to establish a claim;
  • Be ready, willing and able to work immediately; and 
  • Be actively seeking work and keeping a record (online or on paper) of your job-seeking efforts for each week you claim benefits. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is highly unlikely you will be able to find other work.  Nevertheless, you should make an effort to search and, if applicable, apply to online job postings at least three times a week. You should keep track of all your search activities. The New York State Department of Labor has indicated that it will be flexible in determining whether individuals have met the search for work requirement, as there currently is good cause for limiting job searches to electronic rather than in-person searches. 
When should I apply for unemployment?

You must file your unemployment claim during the first week that you become unemployed. Filing your unemployment claim later or after you return to work may negatively impact the benefits you are granted. If you are unable to file your unemployment claim in the first week after you become unemployed, you must call the Telephone Claims Center at 888-209-8124 and speak with a representative.

How do I apply for unemployment insurance?

In order to file a claim online, you must set up a pin number and an account here. You may also file by phone, by calling the Telephone Claims Center at 1-888-209-8124 on Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.  

Is the seven-day waiting period in effect to claim unemployment benefits?

No. New York State has waived the typical seven-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits if you become unemployed as a result of COVID-19. However, enrollment in unemployment insurance may take more than one week, though you will be reimbursed for that first week later. More unemployment insurance information can be found here.

Has the work search requirement been waived?

Not at this time. However, the New York State Department of Labor has indicated unofficially that work search requirements will not be strictly enforced. During the period that the executive order requiring all nonessential employees to work from home is in effect, we suggest searching for work  online, rather than in person, and documenting your online work search efforts. In order to receive unemployment benefits, you must maintain records of any work search you have conducted, including online job postings and any applications submitted. More guidance on work-search requirements can be found here.

If I was placed on a reduced work schedule affecting my pay, am I eligible for unemployment benefits in New York state?

It depends. In New York, if you are partially unemployed, you may qualify for unemployment insurance depending on how many days per week you work and how much per week you earn. If you’re working four or more days a week or making more than $504 per week, you won’t qualify for unemployment insurance.

If I’m furloughed and I do freelance work, does it affect my unemployment?

It might. You must report all work completed during your unemployment benefits period — even if you will not be paid immediately for that work. If you do not report all work when you claim weekly benefits, you may be subject to penalties including the loss of benefits, civil and criminal penalties and fines. Even delayed payment may affect your current unemployment benefits.

How much unemployment insurance will I be paid if I am on furlough?

The amount of your weekly unemployment benefit is calculated based on your income over the five quarters before you became unemployed.  Typically, your weekly benefit will be your highest quarter earnings of the last five quarters, divided by 26. However, the maximum weekly benefit from the state is $504. You can calculate your weekly benefit rate here.

In addition to the state benefit, individuals who become unemployed as a result of COVID-19 also qualify for an additional $600 per week as a result of recent federal legislation.  

Does the CARES Act $1,200 rebate count against unemployment?

There is no current definitive guidance on this question in New York. However, the rebates will likely not count against unemployment benefits since the CARES Act rebate is considered a tax credit and not income. Additionally, the state unemployment insurance law’s definition of wages does not include tax rebates. 

Are there any government programs that allow my employer to reduce hours rather than layoff workers? Will I be able to make up income lost as a result of reduced hours?

Yes. New York State has something called the Shared Work Program.   In order to obtain benefits through this program, an employer must be approved for participation by the New York State Department of Labor. The employer must submit a plan to the Department of Labor, which reduces the hours of some or all employees between 20% and 60% for no more than 53 weeks in lieu of layoffs. The employer must agree not to cut any fringe benefits unless they are reduced or eliminated for the entire workforce. The employer must also agree not to hire any additional employees into the departments affected by the shared work program. Additionally, the NewsGuild must approve the shared work plan.

Once the shared work proposal has been approved by the Department of Labor, impacted employees will be eligible  for unemployment insurance benefits proportional to their wage loss. Learn more here

For those who live outside of New York, visit this site to see if your state has a Shared Work Program.

What happens to my Guild membership if I’m furloughed or laid off?

If you are furloughed from your job, you are still an employee of the company and therefore your Guild membership stays active. 

if you are laid off, you remain a Guild member for 90 days. If you’re interested in continuing to be a member after 90 days, please inquire about our Associate Member program.

Do I still pay Guild dues if furloughed?

No. Guild dues are assessed on the salary you earn for doing your job. So no dues are collected or expected if you are furloughed.

If furloughed, am I still protected by my contract? What if I am laid off?

If furloughed, you are still covered by your contract. A Guild-represented employee on furlough is treated in a similar fashion to an employee on an approved leave of absence.

If you were laid off, you are covered by negotiated provisions in your contract that pertain to company layoffs, severance and rehire rights. Make sure you speak to your rep if you have any questions.

If laid off or furloughed, do I still have access to Guild benefits such as life insurance?

Furloughed members are covered by the Guild’s life insurance for up to 90 days, as the policy dictates. If you purchased additional life insurance policies through Reliance, your policies remain in effect so long as you continue to pay the premiums. 

Laid-off members lose access to the union’s free life insurance policy; however, if you purchased additional life insurance policies through Reliance, your policies remain in effect so long as you continue to pay the premiums.

If I have a temporary pay reduction, will my Guild dues be adjusted accordingly?

Yes. As Guild dues are assessed based on your salary, dues will be adjusted along with your pay. (If after a pay reduction you still earn in excess of the current dues cap, your Guild dues will remain at the same rate.)

Do I have to re-sign a Guild membership card once I'm off furlough or brought back to work?

Nope. But please make sure your Local Representative and our Membership Associate, Tim Try, are aware that you’re back to work.