Find out how to get all the benefits you're eligible for after losing a job or business income due to the coronavirus crisis.

29 minute read

Hello podcast friends. I’m Laura Adams, your host and personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who’s been producing this show since 2008 thanks so much for downloading the show and spending some time with me this week. If you have been on the quote unquote front lines of dealing with the Corona virus crisis over the past few weeks. I also just want to take a moment to say a very heartfelt thank you for your work, whether it’s in a hospital, grocery store, factory delivery truck, government position, or doing work through a food delivery app. What you’re doing is keeping the country going. So again, thank you so much for being out there and as the pandemic continues, we’ve seen the number of people becoming unemployed or losing business income mounting. Unfortunately, the labor department says that about 17 million workers have filed for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks.

There are countless numbers of businesses such as restaurants, salons, hotel shops, factories that have closed temporarily or maybe in some cases will be closed permanently. If you’ve been caught up in this and have been laid off or maybe you expect to be laid off, it is critical to take advantage of every possible benefit and also to think about how to pivot to a new opportunity as quickly as possible. So today I interview Colleen Macquarie. She is the chief people officer at credit karma. We talk about some tips on navigating unemployment due to the Corona virus disaster. Colleen joined credit karma a couple of years ago back in 2018 and now she oversees more than 1300 employees across offices in the United States, Canada and the UK. She’s got more than 20 years of experience in human resources, recruiting and operations. So I thought she’d be a great person to talk to.

She really understands managing people in technology companies so well that she became a technical advisor for the popular HBO series, Silicon Valley in the show’s most recent season. It has a very astute HR administrator and that character was taken straight from Coleen’s real world experiences. And we chat about that. So today we’re going to talk about what to do if you become unemployed. And Colleen and I cover a variety of topics including key questions to ask your human resources administrator, whether you should negotiate during a termination, how to maximize benefits from your old job tips for finding a new job if you get laid off and common mistakes that laid off employees make. And stay tuned after my conversation with Colleen, I’m going to put a finer point on some of these topics by reviewing key and also giving you more information about filing for unemployment insurance.

And it will also apply to those of you who, who have income perhaps that you have lost from your business during the pandemic. So be sure to stay tuned for those final tips. Alright, here’s the conversation with Colleen. Colleen, thank you so much for being with me today. I am sorry that we’re talking in such kind of strange circumstances, but nonetheless, I’m really happy to connect with you and figure out how your expertise can help the community hear and understand what to do if they do become unemployed and what their options are. So thank you for sharing your expertise today.

Happy to be helpful in any way. I can tell me a little bit about what you do. What is a chief people officer? What do you do in that role?

Well, I think a lot of people more traditionally know me as a chief human resources officer. The HR lady really depends on what your perspective is, but my role is to work with our executive team and our employees to create a great employee experience and to figure out the best ways that we can use all of our people to get our work done and get a great product out into market.

Yeah, I did a similar role as you many years ago. It was a much smaller company though I was a COO and it also involved benefits and overseeing payroll and all kinds of benefits for a small company. And so I know what that’s like. Um, you know, trying to, to get people to take advantage of benefits that they have and, and really understand them is so important. And unfortunately I was doing that role during the great recession and so not only did I have to, did I have the pleasure of hiring many people in that role. I also had the displeasure of having to let many people go and it’s a terrible situation that no one wants to be in. And I know so many people now are in a situation where they may be losing their job due to nothing related to their performance, you know, nothing related to that they could have controlled. And so how do you manage that? You know, I think it’s important for people to understand how people who are working in benefits, how difficult all of this is from their side of the desk.

I completely agree. Um, and it’s really nice of you to have that empathy. It is the hardest part of this job. Um, and I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years and unfortunately have had to be in this position many times at different companies. And you’re right, it’s not anything that somebody has done wrong. It’s generally some external market decision that is causing it. And you know, sort of in this case no one could have been prepared for it. There’s nothing, I think for most companies that they could have done to prevent sort of situation that they find themselves in. And it’s heartbreaking. The only silver lining I generally see in this scenario is that for most people, if they have the right attitude and they’re willing to, you know, sort of put the work in, generally they can usually find another opportunity. And in some cases it’s an even better opportunity, longer term than they had before. Thankfully, have in my career had people, you know, I’ve run into them at the grocery store sort of out and about who said like that experience was really painful for me, but I learned a lot from it. And um, you know, sort of know sometimes they’ll say, thank you, I’m going to wait better position now, which is the only silver lining generally. Um, that one can feel during this time.

Yeah. So if someone is newly unemployed or they find themselves unemployed within the next few weeks or maybe month or two, we don’t know how long all of this uncertainty is going to last. But what would you say is kind of the action plan? What steps should that person take to make sure that they get the most out of the benefits that they have with the ex employer? And also how do they get the most out of perhaps some of the government benefits that are available?

Right. So that’s, you know, the first part I always tell people to do is to get clarity on the situation that they’re in. They lay off, meaning that the full termination from the company that your job has gone. If this for a while, which generally means that you’re not getting paid but the company plans or they’re going to hope to bring you back after a certain period of time. It’s just a full company shut down or an office closure. And what happens is for most people is when they first get the news, it’s like your mind goes blank. Like you’re, you know, somebody on CV who’s just sort of wall all while you’re just not hearing anything. So you need to get clarity very quickly. As soon as you can sort of take a breath, take a moment, you know, whether that means calling back the same day or the next day with a list of questions or the email, you’ll know somebody.

Um, you’ll probably be given started email or piece of paper, just sort of walk through. So you want to understand what’s on the table. When is my last paycheck? No, what is the last thing I’m being paid for? Sometime you get some sort of severance. So you know, if a company is lucky enough, they can give you not just your last paycheck that you just earned, but maybe some additional weeks of pay. So you want to know when that last day is, want to know how long your benefits are going to extend, how long has your employer paid for those benefits? And you’ve been paying for those benefits versus the time that you can move to something we call Cobra, which is a government program that will acquires you to have the company to allow you to purchase your benefits at the full price for an extended period of time.

So you want to know when you’re going to get that information. You want to understand, um, all of your pieces in terms of your 401k, any sort of retirement benefits if you have soft, do you want to be able to walk through each of those things that you generally see on your paycheck that you don’t pay a ton of attention to? Like what’s going to happen to each of those things? How do I get my last paycheck stub? If I’m always direct deposit, where do I go? How do I get those things? So you want to start getting that in line. And especially you want to do that before potentially a company might ask you to sign anything. You want to want to understand all of your, you know, sort of options. And, and why you in particular, not everybody was let go. What does that mean?

And if you’re eligible to get to come back at some point, once you’ve sort of stepped through your company piece, the next piece is to immediately file for unemployment. And the nice part about, um, some of these new government actions means that in addition to your state unemployment, so each state actually governs how who is eligible and how you’re eligible. The new congressional plans actually have expanded that. So sometimes if you’ve been a temporary worker or contractor or a consultant or something like that, you’re actually eligible for unemployment with through the new federal program. And even if you potentially haven’t been working that long and they’re even subsidizing it, you may have heard of this sort of additional $600 a week that the government is providing. So many people are going to have those options available to them. So, you know, you certainly want to use all of that.

And then in addition to that, each state have some other forms of compensation and various leads programs that you might be eligible for. So you’re going to have to start to do a little homework. And unfortunately it’s not really easy quite yet to know who, what can I apply for, what can I get to? But certainly it is actually all out there. And one of the, you know, sort of the first place that you can go is going to be your state unemployment website and then the us department of labor website. Both of those have a lot of information right now. And then you know, I always say like don’t be afraid to start using your network. This is nothing to be embarrassed about or shy about. It’s happening all over the place. So you’re going to get a lot of both comfort. And then when people say, how can I help? You can say, you can help me find my next job.

One thing that I often you would see is folks get very upset and angry when they’re terminated. And of course, I mean it’s just our human nature is to be shocked as you mentioned and feel upset. But the reality is you are going to need that benefits administrator. You’re going to need that liaison probably for the next few weeks to help you transition everything and answer questions. So my advice is don’t burn any bridges. You are going to need to have that good relationship, right? And if you are not in a good frame of mind, it really doesn’t help anybody and it’s not going to help you get the most out of your potential benefits. Uh, and and just figuring everything out. So I, I like the idea of being prepared. You know, even if you feel like you’re in a good situation with your, your career and your job right now, it’s not a bad idea to have a document either that you keep on your phone or on your computer.

That is kind of the what if you know, what if I were to get terminated and listing out all the questions that you would want to ask and, and be clear about before it actually happens so that when you are in that state of shock, you can go, okay, I have a tool for this. I’m going to download this form or at least pull out my computer and ask all of these things. Now if you leave the company and you didn’t get everything answered, of course you can always reach out to your benefits administrator. That’s what they do. They expect you to reach back out and ask questions if anything is sort of left undone. Also, you know, you’re gonna want to think about, uh, what you can do with health insurance. You mentioned Cobra. In a lot of cases that’s a great option because you’re going to get a very high quality, uh, group health plan that you can continue typically up to 18 months.

It can be expensive though, you know, depending on how much your company was supplementing or covering the cost of that premium, you may find that it’s unaffordable if your, uh, if your income does drop significantly. Um, it may be that you are better off looking at a program through the federal exchange or the state exchange depending on where you live. So you definitely are going to want to shop, you know, shop your, your options, um, and see what, what’s available for you. But, um, you know, the bottom line is try to get the most out of your benefits. If you can negotiate. Colleen, what would you recommend that people do? I mean, I think, you know, if a severance is in play, uh, wouldn’t you say that the employer might expect you to try to negotiate a little bit for some benefits or additional pay?

You know, I really think it depends sort of what’s on the table and how many people are being affected. If it’s a really large group of people, traditionally not a lot that you’re going to be able to negotiate because there’s going to be sort of an equitable plan that they’re going to want to do for everyone. But I don’t think it ever hurts to ask. And I think that that starts at the beginning of a conversation, whether or not it’s your, you know, sort of your compensation or an offer when you get a job. And certainly not on the way out, as long as you’re doing it in sort of a polite diplomatic, and instead of sort of see your point, you gather more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. As I was always taught, growing up, seeing certainly it’s better to sort of be in a mindset of just saying, Hey, I’m, you know, I’m just asking.

It would be great. I usually do say that sort of trying to negotiate for some additional months of healthcare coverage is the easiest place to ask. Um, potentially. The other thing is to extend time on payroll to get you, you know, depending on when your company’s benefits start, for example, our company’s benefits, you know, sort of as long as you’re there on the first day, we pay your benefits for the rest of the month. That’s a big deal for people that, you know, to your point, it is very expensive healthcare benefits. Um, the other little nugget that I will, I usually tell people is that for Cobra you don’t actually have to sign up right away. Well, Cobra, you can actually delay making payments for the first 45 days. And so if you’re in a situation where you know potentially your significant other has benefits and you’re going to move to those and you’re just trying to assess who’s got the better benefits or you’re going to get employed right away, it’s a little, you know, annoying at first to kind of get these bills for that first 45 days.

But you don’t know, you could eventually stall out the payment for the Cobra into that 44th day and that will retro back to the, you know, the last day you had benefits covered by your company. So it’s a little bit of a way if you’re doing some really trippy money management or you want some time to look at those other plans before you decide, you know, don’t forget, you know, make sure you put it on your calendar that you need to make that payment if you’re, if you’re going to sign up for Cobra. But I, I always think that that’s a good idea. But benefits is definitely an area that you can certainly potentially do an ask for and people will always be much more understanding as to why you’re asking for that.

Yeah. Talk a little bit about FSA dollars. What should someone do if they’ve got a little bit of a balance that they’ve been contributing to and all of a sudden they’re unemployed?

Yeah, so you know you still have those FSA dollars available to you, you know, for the rest of the year. You obviously he changed plans. If you get a new employer needs to remember how much you’ve already put into that first FSA. It’s a little bit like 401k works in the same way you, you sort of have these, these federal caps that you don’t want to be in a situation where you’ve contributed money that you can’t use. My general recommendation is if there are some things that you can purchase right then and there, you forget about the follower, I would do it and use it because having these plans sort of lingering, people tend to forget, but you know you are technically still eligible to have those dollars now. There could be a fee involved in maintaining that plan. So you also want to no sort of check that out, which is the same thing that can happen potentially with your 401k.

As soon as you go off a company’s payroll, if you have a 401k, sometimes the company covering the fee for you and depending on, you know, sort of what those plans are, those things can be expensive and add up very quickly, month over month, which is the same thing if you serve are from an insurance perspective or in an HSA. The themes can add up very quickly and start eating into that. So you want to be start to be very cognizant of what have I been paying for and my company bank for and what’s going to continue after I leave.

And if you’ve got an HSA that is absolutely portable, um, so it’s something that you can continue to spend and it has been expanded. A lot of the qualified expenses are now kind of what they used to be before the affordable care act was enacted. So you can actually purchase over the counter medications, you know, anything related to health. Um, so that’s good news. You definitely have more of an ability to use those HSA funds.

Say the HSA is become much more popular of a, uh, of an option. So I see many, many employers are using that as the standard, um, and that he, the fact that that HSA is portable and does not expire is really important for people to remember.

Before we go on, I want to tell you about a quick and fun way that you can help keep the money girl podcast going. These days. Many of us are doing a lot more online shopping than we used to, but did you know that when you shop on Amazon, you can also support the show and the entire quick and dirty tips network. All you need to do is go to quick and dirty tips.com/amazon you’ll find a link that can take you right to Amazon with a little tracking code attached that tells Amazon you came from me when you shop and make a purchase. Using that link, a percentage of your total will make it back to money girl headquarters without costing you more. And that money helps me and everyone at the network continue to bring you more great episodes. I know you want to hear the best part of shopping on Amazon is that you can find anything. Get a brand new iWriter to stay entertained and informed or a new stand mixer to help you experiment more in the kitchen or vitamins and supplements to stay healthy. Just go to quick and dirty tips.com/amazon to start your next shopping trip. That’s quick and dirty tips.com/amazon thanks for supporting the show. How can you get some recommendations that you can then leverage for the next opportunity that you have?

So I have a couple of pieces of advice on this one. The first one is a lot of companies will tell you that they don’t do references where they don’t allow references, um, that they, you know, standard policy is that we just verify, you know, dates of employment and rate of pay, those kinds of things. Um, what I find is that, you know, as many companies have that it’s actually not that true. A lot of managers don’t know that that’s the company policy and they are perfectly happy and willing usually to write you up, you know, some form of a letter or written an email or something saying, you know, what a great employee you’ve been, what types of projects you’ve worked on and where your skills are. I would say, again, never hurts to ask. So definitely go down that zone. So people who are in more professional jobs these days, what I am seeing a lot more of is asking your colleagues and to write you basically like a review on LinkedIn.

So you’ll see on many people’s LinkedIn pages on the bottom, there’s actually usually some descriptions about you or references. So the, and I’m finding more and more that that’s becoming an acceptable behavior. I certainly know as a recruiter, I always look at those if they’re there because it’s kind of interesting to see who, you know, sort of who’s commenting and um, what they’re saying and who those folks are. Um, and it’s good to remember that it’s not just your boss or your manager whose perspective that you know, a future employer could care about. They might actually really care about a peer or a customer that you’ve worked with or a partnership or that type of thing. So I think doing that. And then the one piece of clarification that you want to make sure when you’re going to update your LinkedIn or update your resume is to understand what was confidential or what wasn’t confidential. So what can you share, what can you do and how can you talk about the projects that you’ve worked on? And then you got to learn how to start practicing discussing those projects again, because we get rusty when we haven’t been interviewing for a long time and we forget that a lot of the skills, um, and the project that we’re doing are actually very interesting to a future employer and we just need to get better at talking about them.

Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s a great time to kind of improve your LinkedIn profile and the recommendations. They are so easy to ask for. And get, so it’s kind of a really, just a simple way to reach out to people who, you know, you probably should be reaching out to them anyway. What else do you think are some things that most people just don’t know or they just get wrong after they are terminated for whatever reason? You know, what’s just maybe the main mistake that you see people doing?

I, well, I’m going to give you two. I know you asked for one, I’m going to give you two. The first one is that they bad mouth their prior employer. Um, and I think that that is, and regardless of of why, you know, you left, somebody asks you to leave, what have you, nobody wants to be in a position where they feel uncomfortable in an interview situation, um, or they worry that you’re going to do that about them someday. So, you know, number one, let’s go back to just sort of keeping it positive and you know, sort of an open mind around not always a great fit everywhere or I learned as much as I could in that experience. Um, or I got really, I got offered a really great experience elsewhere or I need to take time with my family. Right now you have the most perfect, I’m understanding of why you probably don’t have a job.

So there’s really no reason to get into all of the nitty gritty or the details. People are going to make some assumptions right now that it is likely COBIT 19 related and that is probably why, um, you know, you unfortunately are looking for a job if you don’t have one. So I that that’s one of the first things. The second one, and I see this all the time, is do not be afraid to use your network. I hear so often people say, I don’t want to bother that person or I don’t want to ask for anything or I don’t want to see needy or this is why you have a network. This is why you have these connections. And people inherently want to help each other and especially right now and we’ll find, we’re all looking for ways that we can help each other and help each other out.

This is a great time to ask for an introduction. So ask for a connection to ask for advice. Um, I always tell people it’s a compliment because somebody, when you’re asking them for their advice or their opinion, so just think of it that way, that you’re actually no making somebody feel a little bit better. And I think you want to do that in the proactive stage when you’re just starting to consider what the options are, kind of see what’s out there. And then I think you want to do it when you’re getting a little more serious and you want to understand better about a company or an industry or a type of customer that you might not necessarily have some familiarity with the network effect of not just you, but maybe somebody else that you know, your friends know or you know, the connection of a connection that is super valuable right now. And people are just at home. So you know, this is a good time to try and get ahold of the person that normally might not necessarily be the easiest person to go make a coffee date with. But instead you’re just sending them a note, they’re more likely to get a reply at this time.

Great advice. So, Colleen, before we wrap up, I have to ask you, I, I understand that you were a technical advisor for one of my favorite shows, Silicon Valley on HBO. How in the world did that opportunity come about?

Oh, it was a really fun experience and I, you know, sort of Silicon Valley in and of itself, if you know anything about it or even if you watch the show, there’s a lot of people that are connected. And I have, it’s an immense amount of time in the startup world. We’ve a number of companies and a friend of mine, um, who is a venture capitalist actually happens to, I decide to take a sabbatical and spent an entire year in the writer’s room. So that’s why that show is so real for those of us who’ve watched it. And they decided in this the last season to put in an HR person and they needed, you know, sort of an example. So I spent a lot of time giving them some crazy stories of some things that have happened to be in my career or things that I’ve seen. And then I was pretty excited. They ended up building a character sort of around me. So it was a really fun way to sort of see my job come to life. You know, the HR world, people are always unique and dynamic and we all have feelings and emotions and that evidently translates really well. It’s TV, so it’s quite fun.

That is terrific. Yeah. I lived in Silicon Valley for several years and I can say the show nailed it I made, it’s just, uh, if you, if you haven’t lived out there, all you have to do is watch the show and you will definitely get a great flavor for it. It’s, it’s a great show. That’s so much fun to know that that character, and I can picture her in the show that that was

okay.

That that’s you, Colleen.

That is, I don’t look at all like that, but that is, that is what was great was they have people from my path or people who know me or work with me, um, who would ping me and they said, Oh my gosh, that’s so you, they totally nailed that. Um, and I always wondered why that show is funny outside of Silicon Valley because it is so real. But I think people don’t realize that most of what you see on that show actually happened. Um, I used to live in fear of it, uh, before they asked me to be a part of it and just thinking, Oh, something I’ve done is going to show up in this show. And, um, you know, it was like running straight into my fears and it was great. It was a really fun, I got to meet no much of the cast and um, and then to see your ideas being brought to life, uh, and how they portrayed it was just an amazing experience.

Very, very cool. Well, thank you for sharing your tips and expertise. I think this will help folks who are dealing with the, you know, the, the aftermath of losing a job, thinking about what’s next for me, uh, or if you do lose your job, you know, going into that with a level head and, and maybe a few questions already prepared and ready to go, we’ll make it a much better experience overall. So thanks so much for being with me and um, I hope that you are staying healthy at home. Uh, I understand that you’re, you’re working from home. Of course I’m at home as well. I work, I work from home most of the time anyways. So that aspect of this has not been that unusual for me. Um, but it is certainly been such an odd time. Um, so thank you for helping us navigate it a little bit better.

Happy to help out anytime.

Thanks so much again to Colleen. I really enjoyed speaking with her and hope you enjoyed that conversation. Now let’s pivot to a review of some of the tips that we talked about and a few more perhaps that we didn’t talk about. So how do you manage unemployment and loss business income right now due to the Corona virus? Well, number one, as Coleen and I talked about, you need to understand your unemployment circumstances. There is a big difference between being laid off and being furloughed, so be sure that you understand the circumstances for your particular unemployment as to get the terms of your separation from your company in writing and do not sign anything before you’ve had time to fully read it and understand it with a furlough that generally implies that the company plans or hopes to bring you back on the payroll after a certain period.

It’s kind of like mandatory leave without pay. A layoff on the other hand generally implies full termination from a company, so your role, maybe even a percentage of the entire company’s work force or certain divisions may be getting eliminated and another situation is just a complete office closure that happens when the entire location or company shuts down. That’s obviously similar to a layoff in that it’s a full separation, although sometimes you could be asked to relocate to another division or office location that may be still operating within the company. All right. My second tip is know your benefit options. During a furlough, your company may continue to provide regular benefits that you’ve been getting and even vest equity or matching funds. Although this is going to vary a lot from company to company. Some may allow you to bridge some of the initial furlough by using any available paid vacation days that you have now with a lay off your benefits and right away typically or some may continue through the end of the month.

So you want to be clear on exactly when they do end, if you have been laid off. Tip number three is file for unemployment insurance and if you’re not familiar with it, unemployment insurance provides weekly payments to eligible workers who become unemployed or have a loss of income through no fault of their own. And the program is administered jointly by the United States department of labor and individual States to help workers get through a temporary financial hardship. So back in March last month, federal laws were expanded significantly to allow many people to collect unemployment insurance who previously would not have been eligible. So now you may be eligible if your employer permanently or temporarily laid you off due to the Corona virus, you may be eligible if your employer reduced your work hours due to the Corona virus or if you’re self employed and you’ve lost business income due to Corona virus, or if you’re quarantine and you just can’t work or you’re unable to work due to a risk of exposure or you cannot work because you’re caring for a family member who is sick with Cova 19 the bottom line is that if you’ve lost a substantial amount of your income due to the Corona virus, you are likely eligible for unemployment benefits.

As I mentioned, it’s available for those who have lost their jobs, been furloughed, had work hours reduced or even quit due to fear of getting exposed to their Corona virus at work. Unemployment benefits are now also available for the self-employed. If you’ve got a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, or an S corporation, it includes anyone who works as a freelancer, an independent contractor, a gig worker, anyone who has 10 99 income. That was not the case before Corona virus. But now going forward at least through 2020 that is a benefit. So be sure to take advantage of it. Now, if you have a C corporation or even any type of business and you employ workers, including yourself, so let’s say you’ve got a w two people on a payroll that may qualify you for the payroll protection program. That’s another government benefit that was designed to help you keep paying your w two employees.

It doesn’t include your 10 99 people that you’re paying, but it would help you keep paying w two employees with a loan that may be forgiven if you use that money for payroll purposes. So look into that. If you do have anybody on the payroll, if you file for unemployment, the amount that you get each week vary significantly by state. Historically, the program has tried to replace about one half of a typical worker’s income, but the new federal law increases the weekly benefit amount that States pay by $600 and that will be the case through July 31st of 2020 so you’re getting that $600 on top of what the state pays. Now, the length of time that States pay unemployment benefits also vary significantly, but it could be about 26 weeks. The new federal law pays an additional 13 weeks of benefits if you are still unemployed after any of your state benefits run out.

So that’s a nice extension of benefits if you’re still in a hardship after your state benefits are ending and neither state nor federal unemployment benefits that you get have to be repaid. If you’re not sure how to apply for benefits, a good place to start is career one stop.org again, it’s career one-stop dot org they have a unemployment benefits finder that will take you to your state and show you how to file unemployment depending on where you live. And many States are updating their systems on their websites right now to respond to all of these federal law changes and the massive numbers of applicants that have been flooding these websites. So if you are not successful at getting through at first you got to just keep trying. I received a question from Lydia B who says I make income through W2 part time work, but more than half of my income is from 10 99 contract work.

I applied for unemployment for my part time job and have been trying to figure out how to apply for my contract work. My state’s unemployment office is swamped and I can’t get through. Well, thank you for your question, Lydia. As I mentioned, if your W2 or your 10 99 income is down due to Corona virus related hardships, you may be eligible to collect unemployment for both of them. So Lydia, just keep trying to get through to your state’s website and also make a claim for your 10 99 income that has been significantly reduced. Also, some States may have a waiting period such as a week before benefits begin, but many have waived them, so that should allow payments to start. As soon as claims are processed, you’re going to get benefits going back to the first week that you were unemployed in most cases, not as of the date you applied for them.

So you know, don’t be worried that if you can’t get through right away that you’re going to be losing money. The benefits typically are retroactive to the day that you say your income loss began or the date that you, you lost your job. Also, many States have relaxed or eliminated the requirements to search for a new job while you receive unemployment benefits. That used to be a requirement, at least in most States that I’m familiar with, so not doing that obviously helps anyone who is feeling a financial pinch to stay at home and practice social distancing guidelines instead of trying to get out and find a job. For more information about all the relief programs, visit the department of labor’s website. It’s dol.gov take the time to understand all your options and take action to secure the benefits that you’re eligible for right now. All right, my fourth tip is something that we talked about with Colleen is don’t be afraid to use your network with so many people stuck in their homes right now.

There’s an opportunity to reconnect or start a conversation with someone who can help you find a new opportunity. You may find that during the crisis people are more willing or maybe have more time to help, so get a leg up by having the confidence to reach out to your network. And lastly, number five, prepare to impress recruiters. It’s a good idea to ask your previous manager, coworkers or customers for references so you can provide them. When you do apply for new jobs and as we talked about, LinkedIn gives you a really easy way to ask for those references and then you can elect to have them show up on your profile if you wish and make sure that your LinkedIn profile is updated and clearly highlights your skills and experiences. Also consider asking a friend or a family member to practice mock interviews with you.

You might do it over a zoom call. You might be rusty if you haven’t interviewed in a while. So rehearsing, talking about your past roles and responsibilities will definitely help you put your best foot forward. And when you do interview for a new job, as Colleen and I talked about, never speak poorly about a past employer. You want to keep it positive and be sure to research the company so you can talk intelligently about their website, their products, their market, and their customers. If you need some advice right now about how to maximize benefits for a job loss or for a hardship that your business is facing, consider reaching out to your bank or credit union to see if they offer free advice. If you have a relationship with a financial planner or advisor, that’s another great resource. There are also free financial counselors available through nonprofits and organizations such as the national foundation for credit counseling at [inaudible] dot org they can help you understand all your options when you’re in a crisis and definitely help you protect your financial health. That’s all for now. I know this was a longer episode than normal, but I think the content is just so important. I’ll talk to you next week. Until then, here’s to living our richer life. Money girl is produced by the audio wizard, Steve Ricky Berg with editorial support from Karen Hertzberg. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, give us a rating and review on Apple podcasts.

New episodes are released every Wednesday, so be sure to hit the subscribe button and you might also like the backlist episodes and show notes that are always available@quickanddirtytips.com

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues, the number of people becoming unemployed or losing business income is mounting. According to the Labor Department, nearly 17 million workers have filed for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks. [1] Countless numbers of businesses — restaurants, salons, hotels, shops, and factories — have closed temporarily or, in some cases, permanently.

If you’ve been laid off or expect to be, it’s critical to take advantage of every possible benefit and pivot to a new opportunity as quickly as possible.

I interviewed Colleen McCreary, Chief People Officer at Credit Karma, for tips on how to navigate unemployment due to the coronavirus disaster. She joined Credit Karma in 2018 and now oversees more than 1,300 employees across offices in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

Colleen has more than 20 years of experience in human resources, recruiting, and operations. She understands managing people in technology companies so well that she became a technical advisor for the popular HBO series, Silicon Valley. The show’s astute HR administrator was taken straight from Colleen’s real-world experiences!

On the Money Girl podcast, Colleen and I discuss what to do if you become unemployed. We cover a variety of topics, including:

  • The difference between layoffs and furloughs
  • Key questions to ask your human resources administrator
  • Whether you should negotiate during a termination
  • How to maximize benefits from your old job
  • Tips for finding a new job if you get laid off
  • Common mistakes that laid-off employees make

How to manage unemployment and lost business income due to the coronavirus

Here are some tips from Laura and Colleen for navigating the financial hardship of unemployment and lost business income the best ways possible.

1. Understand your unemployment circumstances

There’s a big difference between being laid off and being furloughed, so be sure you understand the circumstances for your unemployment. Ask to get the terms of your separation from your company in writing. And don’t sign anything before you’ve had time to understand it fully.

furlough generally implies that the company plans or hopes to bring you back after a certain period. Think of it as mandatory leave without pay.

layoff, or reduction in workforce, generally implies full termination from a company. Your role, a percentage of the company workforce, or certain divisions may get eliminated.

Another situation is a complete office closure, which happens when an entire location or company shuts down. It’s similar to a layoff in that it’s usually a full separation, although sometimes you could be asked to relocate to another division or office location.

2. Know your benefit options

During a furlough, your company may continue to provide regular benefits and vest equity or matching purposes (though this varies by company). Some companies allow you to bridge some of the initial furlough by using any available paid vacation days.

With a layoff, your benefits may end right away, or some may continue through the end of the month.

3. File for unemployment

Unemployment insurance provides weekly payments to eligible workers who become unemployed or have a loss of income through no fault of their own. The program is administered jointly by the US Department of Labor and individual states to help workers get through a temporary financial hardship.

In March 2020, federal laws were expanded to allow many people to collect unemployment insurance who weren’t previously eligible. You may now be eligible if:

  • Your employer permanently or temporarily laid you off due to coronavirus
  • Your employer reduced your work hours due to coronavirus
  • You are self-employed and have lost income due to coronavirus
  • You’re quarantined and can’t work due to coronavirus
  • You’re unable to work due to a risk of exposure to coronavirus
  • You can’t work because you’re caring for a family member due to coronavirus

The bottom line is that if you’ve lost a substantial amount of your job or self-employment income due to the coronavirus, you’re likely eligible for unemployment benefits. As I mentioned, it’s available for those who have lost their jobs, been furloughed, had work hours reduced, or quit due to fear of getting exposed to the coronavirus.

Unemployment benefits are now also available for the self-employed who have a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, or an S corporation. It includes anyone who works as a freelancer, an independent contractor, or a gig worker and has 1099 income.

However, if you have a C corporation or another type of business that employs workers (including yourself), the new Payroll Protection Program was designed to help you keep paying W2 employees.

The weekly unemployment payment amount varies significantly by state. Historically, the program has tried to replace about half of a typical worker’s income. However, the new federal law increases the weekly benefit amount that states pay by $600 until July 31, 2020. States often pay about half of the average worker’s income.

The length of time that states pay unemployment benefits varies significantly but could be around 26 weeks. The new federal law pays an additional 13 weeks of benefits if you’re still unemployed after your state benefit runs out. Neither state nor federal unemployment payments that you receive must be repaid.

Use the Unemployment Benefits Finder at Careeronestop.org to learn how to file for unemployment insurance in your state. Many states are updating their systems to respond to significant federal law changes and the massive numbers of applicants. So, if you aren’t successful at first, keep trying.

I received a question from Lydia B., who says:

I make income though W2 part-time work, but more than half of my income is from 1099 contract work. I applied for unemployment for my part-time job and have been trying to figure out how to apply for my contract work. My state’s unemployment office is swamped, and I can’t get through.

Thanks for your question, Lydia. As I mentioned, if your W2 or 1099 income is down due to coronavirus-related hardships, you may be eligible to collect unemployment for both of them. Just keep trying to get through to your state’s website.

Some states may have a waiting period, such as a week before benefits begin, but some have waived them. That should allow payments to start as soon as claims are processed. You will get benefits going back to the first week that you were unemployed, not as of the date you applied for them.

Also, many states have relaxed or eliminated the requirement to search for a new job while you receive unemployment benefits. That helps anyone feeling a financial pinch to stay home and practice social distancing guidelines.

For information about more relief programs, visit the Department of Labor website. Take the time to understand your options and take action to secure all the benefits you’re eligible for.

4. Don’t be afraid to use your network

With so many people stuck in their homes right now, there’s an opportunity to reconnect or start a conversation with someone who can help you find a new opportunity. You may find that during the coronavirus crisis, people in your network may be more willing or have more time to help. So, get a leg up by having the confidence to reach out to your network.

5. Prepare to impress recruiters

It’s a good idea to ask your previous manager, coworkers, or customers for references so you can provide them when you apply for new jobs. LinkedIn gives you an easy way to ask for references that you can elect to have on your profile. Make sure your profile is updated and clearly highlights your skills and experiences.

Also, consider asking a friend or family member to practice mock interviews with you. You might be rusty, so rehearsing talking about your past roles and responsibilities will help you put your best foot forward.

When you interview for a new job, never speak poorly about a past employer. And be sure to research the company so you can talk intelligently about their website, products, market, and customers.

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About the Author

Laura Adams, Quick and Dirty Tips

Laura Adams, Quick and Dirty Tips

Laura Adams is an award-winning author of multiple books, including Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. Her newest title, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, is an Amazon No. 1 New Release. Laura’s been the writer and host of the popular Money Girl Podcast, a top weekly audio show in Apple Podcasts, since 2008. She’s a frequent source for the national media and has been featured on most major news outlets including NBC, CBS, ABC FOX, Bloomberg, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Money, Time, Kiplinger’s, USA Today, U.S News, Huffington Post, Marketplace, Forbes, Fortune, Consumer Reports, MSN, and many other radio, print, and online publications. Millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Her mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her podcasting, speaking, spokesperson, teaching, and advocacy work. Laura received an MBA from the University of Florida. Visit LauraDAdams.com to learn more and connect with her.

Published by Debt.com, LLC