Meet the Expert
Sophie Jones

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Alex is the Director of Special Projects and Initiatives, where she works to implement cross-program projects and drive new nutrition and anti-hunger strategic initiatives at the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

You’ve lost your job. It could’ve been a layoff, an error at work, or any number of unfortunate reasons. If you live alone, you may not have a support system to fall back on as you weather the storm and land your next gig. And if you’re supporting a family, you have food, clothes, bills, and rent to think about. Unemployment can be nasty, especially when the economy is in a downturn.

The good news is, anyone who loses their job has options. If you know about them, you might be well on your way to making your next job a reality. But if you’re not sure where to turn, whom to talk to, or even what resources and support programs are out there – this guide is for you. If you or someone you know has found themselves on the wrong side of a layoff, read on to learn about some of the best employment, financial assistance, job placement, and training opportunities available today.


Facts About Unemployment

  • As of May 1, 2020, approximately 30 million people in the U.S. have sought unemployment aid:As a result of the Coronavirus and the changing landscape of traditional employment, a drastic number of people find themselves out of work and are unsure how long they will be in this position.
  • Hospitality and leisure jobs are among the hardest hit by the Coronavirus:Nearly 460,000 jobs, or 65% of workers in the industry, lost their jobs as of March 2020.
  • Unemployment affects health and morality:According to the International Scholarly Research Notices journal, unemployment increases anxiety, stress, and depression among individuals and their immediate families.

Unemployment: The Big Picture

Low unemployment stimulates the community. The more people who have gainful employment, the higher consumer spending — increased earnings lead to higher rates of consumption. Even owners of small businesses feel the impacts of low unemployment and higher consumer spending on a small but significant scale due to the increase in money circulating in the marketplace. The localized stimulation of the economy allows businesses to develop more products and improve their services.

But what happens when a family loses an income? When the primary (or sole) breadwinner gets laid off and is forced to scramble to make ends meet? In addition to the potential of missing a meal or bouncing a rent check, depression, anxiety, and stress can hurt everyone involved. Children are especially sensitive to changes in their environments and may experience increased negative emotions. There might also be a change in their school performance, concentration, and general behavior.

Unemployment Financial Assistance and Relief

If you find yourself unemployed or underemployed, help is available. A number of public assistance programs can get you and your family the help you need when and where you need it. The first step is to understand your options — which resources make the most sense for you and your loved ones during this tough time. To start you on the right path, here are three key programs you can use to land a new job and/or receive a little financial assistance until you’re back on your feet.

American Job Centers: State Unemployment Insurance

American Job Centers (AJCs) offer free help for job seekers and other employment-related needs. They can provide valuable services, including job training services, job search assistance, interviewing practice, employment workshops, and resource rooms that provide free internet, phones, and resume writing tools. AJCs are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. AJCs provide a wealth of online information regarding state unemployment insurance, which is especially useful during the Coronavirus pandemic.

What is it?

In sum, state unemployment insurance (SUI) is a tax-funded program. It is designed for employers to give short-term benefits to those workers who have lost their jobs. It is required by state and federal law, and employers responsible for paying the SUI tax for their own employees. SUI requires workers/recipients to be in the process of looking for a new job to be eligible.

How does it work?

It varies among states, but you are likely able to receive around 26 weeks of benefits. You will receive payments by direct deposit or mailed check. Provided you’re eligible for unemployment insurance, any support you receive through unemployment during the year probably needs to be reported in your taxable gross income. You can find out more information on taxable assistance by using the IRS’s step-by-step site here.

Who is eligible?

Most anyone who has lost their job and is actively looking for a new job is eligible. You must, however, be unemployed through no fault of their own, meet wage and work requirements for your state, and follow any additional state-imposed requirements. Due to the Coronavirus, eligibility for unemployment insurance has been updated. You can access a list of the new expansions here.

How can you apply?

AJCs and state-sponsored sites can give you all of the information you need in order to apply for state unemployment insurance. CareerOneStop, a partner of the AJC, provides application information by state here.

More information and support is the general hub for information on workers compensation, unemployment benefits, temporary assistance, and more for those who have lost their jobs.

Benefits.govThis site offers an eligibility test to see if you can file for unemployment insurance. It also provides a direct link to the application process for each state.

Self-Employment Assistance

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Job Placement and Training Support

Financial assistance such as unemployment checks and TANF aren’t meant to last forever. For those unable to work, there are programs such as SSI, but for people eager and able to get back to work, several programs are available. We are only scratching the surface here. Your state has comprehensive services to help you get back to work. The list below is just a sample of the programs available.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Signed into law in 2014, WIOA can help you access the necessary education, training, and support services to seek new jobs or reemployment. Funded by the federal government, there local government- and state-operated programs dedicated to adult, youth, and underserved populations.

What is it?

This federal program gives money to states and territories and requires them to create and coordinate effective workforce development programs. WIOA ensures that the training that you would receive can actually help you meet the credentials that employers want. Most importantly, this program makes sure that unemployed people have access to high-quality workforce services, including special support for young job-seekers and individuals with disabilities.

How does it work?

This program helps fund one-stop centers, or American Job Centers (AJCs), that provide conserver service for employers and job-seekers.  In this way, WIOA supports regional economies and contributes to community and workforce development.

Who is eligible?

WIOA has services for both adult and youth programs. Participants in these WIOA training programs must be 14 years of age or older and be U.S. citizens or non-citizens who are authorized to work in the U.S. The WIOA prioritizes programs that serve vulnerable or at-risk populations, including programs that benefit Native Americans and migrant/seasonal farm workers.

How can you apply?

Each state will have some paperwork you need to fill out to determine your eligibility. You can find state specific information through CareerOneStop here.

More information and support

WIOA features youth programs for younger individuals who are trying to prepare for careers. WorkforceGPS provides specific information on these youth services here.

Prospective adult and youth trainees can find additional WOIA-related resources through the National Association of Workforce Boards.

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers

Rapid Response Services for Workers

Unemployment Benefits for Workers Affected by COVID-19

Unemployment Assistance for Veterans

In 2019, there were more than 284,000 unemployed veterans, or 3.1%, in the U.S. These numbers have jumped recently because of the Coronavirus pandemic. As of March 2020, the percentage of unemployed veterans has risen to 3.8%.  If you are an unemployed veteran, there are a number of resources where you can seek assistance and relief now and in the future.

Veteran and Military Transition Center at CareerOneStopYou can find information on federal-state unemployment insurance programs and relief options related to the Coronavirus.

Veterans Jobs MissionThis organization is composed of 230 private sector companies that have pledged to hire at least 100,000 veterans by 2020. Today, they have hired more than 500,000 veterans at leading companies such as DuPont, General Motors, and IBM.

VFW Uniting to Combat HungerUnemployment can cause drastic issues for veterans, including food insecurity. Nearly 25% of the nation’s active-duty and Reserve personnel rely on food pantries regularly, and these numbers are worse during times of high unemployment and pandemics such as the Coronavirus.

Unemployment Assistance for Workers Over 50

It is an unfortunate reality that many workers over 50 years of age have a harder time finding work after they’ve been laid off or fired than younger folks. Here are some resources to help older adults locate employment and training opportunities to get back to work.

AARP Back to Work 50+AARP’s Back to Work 50+ initiative provides economic opportunities, social connectedness, and legal advocacy for older adults currently in or re-entering the workforce. Additionally, they can take advantage of a number of skills workshops and training opportunities to be more competitive in the job market for in-demand positions.

CareerOneStop Older Worker Program FinderThe U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop offers a useful search engine for older adults who want to locate contact information for potential employers in their state. Many of the organizations and agencies on these lists have strong regional or national ties, including Goodwill and regional human resource agencies.

Senior Job BankThis organization specializes in bringing older adult job-seekers with employers. Users can search for jobs online or find continuing education or opportunities in their states if they’re considering a change in occupation or industry.

Unemployment Assistance for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities who have been laid off or let go because of situations beyond their control may have a more difficult time finding another job than many of us think. The impact of the Coronavirus, for example, has shown the devastating effects on the financial and personal health of people with disabilities and their families. Here are a few supportive organizations that can help people with disabilities get back on the right track to employment while taking care of themselves.

Access LivingThis organization offers a wide variety of online resources for individuals with disabilities who are affected by the Coronavirus. Users can get more information on relief funds, self-care, employment, transportation options, housing, and more.

The Arc.orgThe Arc offers a number of robust services for individuals with disabilities, including employment services and resources for people with disabilities, families, and service providers.

National Disability InstituteThe NDI offers a range of useful resources than focus on the financial resources to help people with disabilities and their families get through the Coronavirus pandemic. Check out its Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development for more information on financial assistance options.

Remote Career Q&A: A Hedge Against Unemployment?

We’ll always need workers in the service industries to keep our country moving forward with essential services, but Coronavirus has made face-to-face work less stable and predictable. Telecommuting is for readers who might be interested in transitioning to a remote job or supplementing their public-facing jobs with remote work.

What is telecommuting? What is remote work?

This is work that you can complete entirely or partly online from a location of your choosing. While the types of remote work can vary greatly, telecommuting often relies heavily on the internet, cell phones, and computers to get things done.

I like my career dealing with the public, and I don’t want to give it up entirely. How can I supplement my career with remote work?

If you lost your job due to the virus, can you retrain online for a remote career?

What career fields will be (1) in demand or (2) unaffected if another public health or natural disaster crisis hits?

If you’re a food and beverage worker, what jobs can you transition to?

Insight from an Employment Expert

Sophie Jones is a recruiter for Creative Circle in Nashville, TN. She specializes in connecting candidates and clients in the creative world.

In the wake of the coronavirus-related layoffs and sky-high unemployment numbers, what advice would you give to people who are interested in pursuing remote work for the first time?

Working remotely can pose challenges to anyone who is more comfortable or used to working in the office. My advice would be to have very clear communication with the company. Before starting the project make sure there is a clear timeline for project duration and what deliverables are expected. Also, discuss what their budget is for the project so that you can keep them updated on progress or inform them of any setbacks or changes. You want to ensure everyone is on the same page with deliverables and deadlines. Communication will help anyone be successful in a remote working environment.

As a recruiter at a creative staffing agency, what advice can you offer job-seekers who are scrambling to find work in these tough times?

In addition to getting job-search help from professionals like yourself, what are some concrete steps that unemployed people can take to get back to work in a related or new position?