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COVID-19 and Unemployment Compensation

Unemployment Compensation

Last updated on 06/09/2021 at 5:33 pm

Since COVID-19 started in March 2020, Congress has passed laws that have expanded the Unemployment Compensation program to help people get through the pandemic.

First, these laws have covered more people. Before COVID-19, the regular Unemployment Compensation system covered only people who were “employees” of a business. Independent contractors, “gig workers,” or “freelancers” were left out. But the new laws expanded coverage to people who are self-employed.

Second, the new laws have increased the amount of unemployment compensation people have been paid during certain time periods.

Third, these laws have expanded the number of weeks people can get unemployment compensation.

These expansions have been extended a few times as COVID-19 has continued to cause problems.  Most recently, in March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan which provided extensions for certain benefits and added additional tax benefits.

Here is a summary of the changes from the American Rescue Plan in March 2021:

(1) People who are self-employed, gig workers or those not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits are eligible to receive unemployment (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).

(2) People who have been unemployed for a long time (have already used their “regular” unemployment for 26 weeks) are eligible for help longer (Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation).

(3) Under the American Rescue Plan, you can receive an extra $300 per week on top of the state benefit amount.

These “extra” benefits are available in West Virginia until June 19, 2021.

Also, under the American Rescue Plan, the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 are not subject to federal taxes for individuals making less than $150,000.  For married couples filing jointly, up to $20,400 in combined unemployment income is not subject to federal taxes if the couple makes less than a combined $150,000 and both individuals received unemployment compensation. West Virginia also passed a law that says this same standard applies to West Virginia state taxes for unemployment income.

Information about unemployment compensation is changing frequently.  We will keep updating this article, when we get new information.  Please keep checking back.


I was laid off from my job because of COVID-19. Can I get Unemployment Compensation benefits?

I wasn’t laid off, but my hours were cut way back. I’m not earning nearly as much as before. Can I get some help from Unemployment Compensation?

I already used up my 26 weeks of Unemployment Compensation benefits, but I’m still unemployed. With the coronavirus emergency still going on, I’m not likely to find a job now. Can I get extra weeks added to my claim?

Is there a “waiting period” before I start getting Unemployment Compensation benefits?

Are there other ways the Governor made it easier for people to get Unemployment Compensation benefits?

How do I apply?

When should I apply?

I lost my job because I could not work when the schools in my county were shut down and I’m the only one who can take care of my kids at home. Can I get Unemployment Compensation?

I can’t work because I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have to stay home. Can I get Unemployment Compensation?

I can’t work because I’m caring for someone else who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Can I get Unemployment Compensation?

I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and I’m off work, but I’m using paid sick leave. Can I get Unemployment Compensation?


I wasn’t technically an “employee.” Call me a “freelancer” or a “gig worker” or an “independent contractor” or “self-employed.” I am not getting any work my work because of the COVID-19 emergency. Can I get Unemployment Compensation benefits?

As a “freelance” or “gig worker,” do I have to meet any special requirements for Unemployment Compensation benefits?

Is there a seperate application process for freelancers, gig workers and part-timers?

Is there a waiting period for gig workers, freelancers, or part-timers?

I was an employee, but I worked only part-time. I’ve been laid off from even the part-time job, because of COVID-19. Can I get Unemployment Compensation benefits?


Does Unemployment Compensation count as income for SNAP or Medicaid?


Do I have to report unemployment compensation on my income tax return?

How will I know how much to report?

What about tax withholding?