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Unemployment For Travel Therapists & COVID

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Unemployment has been the talk of a lot of online therapy forums lately as clinics and schools are closing in the midst of COVID-19. As many therapists are sadly getting furloughed, let go from jobs completely, or hours drastically cut, it’s a topic on many people’s minds.

Sally Paulding, is an SLP who found herself in a situation mentioned above and did research into unemployment. She has kindly agreed to share what she has learned with this community.

Note from Sally: Keep in mind I’m no unemployment professional, but have just done a lot of research (God knows I have time!) so nothing below is an absolute or a promise. Additionally, each state is mildly different, so no specifics are written here for each state.

To Begin: There are two types of unemployment coverage to be thinking about 

  1. Your old fashioned state unemployment. 
    • Typical unemployment is paid into a fund by employers for each paycheck. The employer can’t refuse your benefits if you lost your job through no fault of your own. Only the state can determine that. So if you are told you won’t be paid unemployment you should still apply!
    • Even if you cannot get the typical unemployment, you may be directed on how to apply to the #2 type, which is the COVID-19 relief.
    • All unemployment applications are reviewed by each state and can deny the application based on what they might find, but you can always appeal.
  2. The new COVID-19 $600/wk relief payment
    • This payment is added on top of the normal unemployment payment amount. Normal unemployment runs for a set number of months per state rule. The COVID-19 check only runs through July 31st at this time. (This is completely unrelated to the $1200 personal stimulus checks you hear about)

Who is eligible for unemployment?

Anyone laid off, let go, or furloughed through no fault of their own and those sent home due to quarantine are eligible to apply. Depending on your state, this might include if your only employment was just PRN.

Additionally, the COVID-19 relief stimulus bill expands unemployment protections to gig workers, freelancers, and self-employed individuals, who typically don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

When can you apply for unemployment?

Every state is different so that info is best found independently. But the sooner the better.

How do you know which state to file in?

You can apply to any state you have worked in within the last 1-2 years (timing varies per state). States also have varying “base periods” and the amount of money earned or hours required to have worked there in order to file for that state. I recommend you go to each state and see what their base period and weekly payment to you would be. Each state has a different formula, as well as a different max payment amount.

To get that information and number go to Google and look up “[your state] unemployment benefits eligibility”. To get the most up to date information go to the state’s actual website, not other links because they may not be up to date. Then, ultimately I recommend choosing the state with which you have a qualifying base period and that will pay best.

Google “[your state] unemployment benefits eligibility”

What is your benefit based on?

Your payment is only based upon taxable weekly non-stipend monies.

Can you apply to more than one state?

You are better off “combining” your payment when applying to one state. They will ask if you have worked out of state and then ask if you want to combine the state payments into one.

Where do you complete the applications?

Each state has its own location. See below for a web page that includes links to these specific state pages.

If you were PRN and now have your hours cut, can you still apply for unemployment if you are still employed by your company?

I am unsure at this time how hours being cut (but still working) apply. I recommend that anyone PRN that is not working should text your manager and ask, “Just checking. Am I not on the schedule because COVID has altered what’s going on somehow?” 

Always better to get this in writing, especially since the $600 check is linked to any impact DUE TO COVID. Even if you think they will schedule you after it’s all over you still can apply.

When the application asks you to list your employer, what do you put? 

Your employer is your recruiting/staffing agency. Your employer is likely to be listed in two ways: “legal address” (the staffing agency address on your check) and “local address” (the facility where you worked address). This means if you had multiple assignments with the same staffing agency they are considered different jobs and should be listed as such.

Other resources, websites, etc found helpful?

This website provides specific state rules in layman’s terms. They also provide direct links.

This Forbes article is an EXCELLENT starter article to understand the new Covid unemployment relief benefit. It will tell you more information I have not addressed.

Any other tips or advice that you would like to share?

1. Gather this information before beginning:

  • Your income from each job
  • The recruiting firms and the actual facility’s addresses
  • The federal employer identification number (FEIN) for the recruiting agency. You can Google that number with “[your company name] federal employer identification number” or find it on your past W2s.

2. Don’t become stressed out if unclear on anything, you’re gonna get through this. Most information you might need outside of the above can likely be googled or found on the state’s unemployment website.

3. Read every line on the application carefully. It’s always best to make sure you do not assume what it says and accidentally answer incorrectly or make a wrong choice.

4. Finally, the state is likely to ask you why each job ended. Obviously assignments are different from normal working situations. If given a choice, state you left for another job, not that you quit. The most recent job you will state you were laid off.

Please feel free to share any good tips or links you have found.

Thank you for your time and knowledge, Sally!

3 thoughts on “Unemployment For Travel Therapists & COVID”

  1. I am finding conflicting and rather unclear information regarding PRN from different states. So obviously this may be different on a state to state basis. I personally recommend applying no matter what because your state will do their investigation and decide on their own, based upon their rules.

  2. The unemployment sites state to report “gross wages” to determine eligibility amount…gross would include per diems/stipends…so do I go off of gross amount or just taxable hourly??

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