Federal money comes in addition to state benefits


Employers are saying it. Economists are saying it. The governor himself says it at his daily press conferences.


Many Missourians are losing jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak, at least temporarily.


And that’s what the state’s unemployment insurance program is for.


Many laid off in the crisis will be eligible for money from the state to help cover some expenses. The federal government has also taken action to boost benefits during the crisis.


Here's what you need to know.


Are you eligible?


First, you should make sure you’re actually eligible for benefits.


Generally, you're eligible if you lose your job through no fault of your own or for good cause, which generally means you had no choice but to leave.


That means that if your employer shut down or laid you off due to what's going on with the virus, you're likely eligible.


If you can't work because you're in mandatory quarantine on suspicion of having the virus, you're also likely eligible, per the state labor department.


However, before the end of last week, there were a lot of questions from people who aren't normally eligible for benefits, including those who are self-employed, gig workers and independent contractors.


The CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by the president last Friday attempted to answer those questions with temporary coverage for certain groups.


So under the act, you may also be eligible if you're self-employed, an independent contractor, a gig worker or a part-time worker.


You also may be eligible if you can't work because:


• You have the virus or you have symptoms of it and are seeking a medical diagnosis.


• A member of your household has the virus.


• You are caring for a family member or someone else in your household who has been diagnosed with the virus.


• You have been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns about the virus.


• You are the primary caregiver for someone in your household who can't go to school or another facility due to the virus and that means you can't work.


• You were supposed to start a new job, didn't already have a job and cannot get to the job because of the virus;


• You have become the breadwinner or major support for your household because the head of your household has died as a result of the virus.


States can also partner with the federal government to add 13 weeks of benefits for those who have already exhausted their benefits, are able to work and are actively seeking work.


Notably, the bill does not apply to people getting sick leave, vacation or family medical leave pay.


It also does not apply to people who have the ability to work remotely with pay.


Generally, that means that if your employer allows you to telework and you choose not to, you're not eligible. But if your employer requires you to stay home and doesn't offer you the option to telework, you may be eligible for benefits.


How do I file?


If you’re eligible, you’ll need the following:


• Your Social Security number.


• Any amount you were paid in the past week, before taxes and deductions.


• The name and mailing address of each job you worked in the past 18 months.


• The dates you started and ended work at each of those jobs.


Once you’ve got all that handy, head to uinteract.labor.mo.gov, create an account and file your claim. If your job loss is related to coronavirus issues, make sure to check a box that says “COVID-19” in your application to waive a requirement to search for a new job amid the crisis.


If you run into trouble, department representatives are available by phone 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays. You can also email at esuiclaims@labor.mo.gov.


You’ll also need to file a request for payment each week; Missouri provides benefits for up to 20 weeks, which can be extended to 33 weeks under the federal provisions.


The state will pay you up to $320 per week, and the federal government will provide $600 on top of whatever you get from the state for each week you're on employment prior to July 31.


What's the state doing?


A few things.


Missouri added that option to waive job search requirements for those affected by the virus, though it does not apply to those who were receiving unemployment prior to the crisis.


And following requests from Democratic legislators, the state is also suspending the "waiting week" requirement that usually means people aren’t paid for their first week of benefits until their last week of eligibility.


What about the stimulus checks?


Can't forget those. The government's checks to individuals are not part of unemployment, but they could still be a big help to some.


Many single adults with Social Security numbers who make $75,000 or less can expect to get $1,200; married couples making $150,000 or less can expect a total of $2,400 between them; and people filing as head of household will get $1,200 if they make $112,500 or less.


Those who qualify will also get $500 extra per child age 16 or under.


Notably, adults who are claimed as dependents on tax returns, like many college students, are not eligible for the checks.


Payments will decrease for those making more until they reach zero for single people making $99,000 and up and married couples with no children making $198,000 and up.


According to the New York Times, a family with two children will stop being eligible for payments if its income is more than $218,000.


You do not need to apply for the payments; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said he expects most people to get paid within three weeks.


Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at ahuguelet@news-leader.com.