How unemployment benefits stack up in Tennessee and Virginia

Local Coronavirus Coverage
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(WJHL) – Unemployment continues to rise alongside the spread of the novel coronavirus. With relief on the way from federal and state governments, how much aid can Tennesseans and Virginians expect as unemployment numbers continue to climb?

In Tennessee and Virginia, unemployment claims spiked as the virus spread across both states. Two weeks ago, unemployment claims in Tennessee spiked to nearly 40,000 claims from 2,702 claims the week before, and in Virginia, claims surged to more than 48,000 claims from the previous week’s 2,706.

When Congress passed the CARES Act last week, it guaranteed a one-time stimulus check of up to $1,200 for each American and up to $500 for each child younger than 17.

Read more about this: Q&A: Here’s how your federal coronavirus relief check will work

The CARES Act also offers up to $600 per week for up to four months in unemployment relief. That is in addition to state relief funding for unemployment.

The Act included provisions for ‘gig workers’ and freelancers who otherwise might not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

States are awaiting guidance from the federal government on how to appropriate those funds, so people under the “self-employed” umbrella are still awaiting the ability to file for unemployment.

Tennessee’s benefits

According to the state department of labor and workforce development, those filing for unemployment benefits may receive a maximum of $275 per week through state unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefit amounts are based on past earnings in Tennessee, and according to the state website, earners of those benefits must enter weekly recertification to continue receiving benefits.

Under the federal CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress passed last week, unemployed Tennesseans will also get another $600 per week for up to four months through the CARES package.

A Tennessean earning the maximum $275 per week through state unemployment insurance can collect up to $875 per week in state and federal unemployment benefits.

The CARES Act also extends existing state benefits by 13 weeks. In Tennessee, that means unemployment benefits can be collected for up to 39 weeks.

This is also separate from the one-time cash payments to citizens under the CARES Act. Those one-time payments are up to $1,200 for adults and $500 for each child younger than 17.

Gov. Bill Lee announced a workforce exchange program last week aiming to match unemployed Tennesseans with industries looking to mass-hire temporary workers, such as grocery stores.

Tennesseans receiving unemployment benefits must continue filling out the weekly certification to continue receiving those benefits, according to the department of labor and workforce development.

The certification process is a “check-in” with the state on a job search, and citizens receiving unemployment benefits must report any earnings each week.

If someone receiving unemployment benefits earns $50 or 25% of their weekly benefits (whichever is higher) through working, unemployment benefits will cease.

For example, those earning the full $275 per week may earn up to $68.75 without losing those benefits. Someone receiving $175 per week can earn up to $50 without losing benefits because 25% of $175 is $43.75.

Virginia’s benefits

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on March 1 measures that broadened the qualifications for Virginians to receive unemployment benefits. The measures, Northam said, would help employees receiving fewer work hours because of the pandemic, but who aren’t formally “unemployed.”

Northam’s measures include:

  • The one-week waiting period has been waived.
  • The weekly job search requirement is waived.

Virginians collecting unemployment benefits can receive up to $378 per week, and the minimum amount is $60 per week.

The amount of state unemployment is determined by past earnings, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

Like Tennessee, this doesn’t include the $600 per week from the federal government from those who have been furloughed or laid off, meaning Virginians can collect up to $938 per week in unemployment benefits once the CARES Act payments are added to the equation.

This does not include the one-time stimulus payments from the CARES Act, totaling $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child under the age of 17.

Normally, Virginians may receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, but with the CARES Act, citizens may receive benefits for up to 39 weeks.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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