Many in Connecticut are facing and fearing lay offs as the states impose closures of restaurants, theaters, gyms and schools to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Connecticut Department of Labor confirms it is seeing an uptick in unemployment-related activity related to the coronavirus.
If you're one of those people -- or you're worried you're going to be laid off, or you are a small business feeling the strain of the virus -- some basic advice from officials, legal experts and budgeting officials is below.
This page will be updated with advice from the Connecticut Department of Labor as it becomes available.
For the latest COVID-19 numbers click here. For the latest on curfews and mandatory directives, click here. For the latest on the spread of coronavirus in Connecticut and around the country, click here.
BEFORE YOU ARE LAID OFF
Save money. If you think you might be laid off, start saving as much money as you can right now, Grant Sabatier, author of "Financial Freedom" and creator of the Millennial Money brand says. "Having even a small amount of emergency savings will help you weather some of the uncertainty."
Check your handbooks or contracts to see if there is a severance policy. Christopher Davis, managing partner of The Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, says many employers may have a severance plan in place that can include monetary assistance when employees are laid off, however "some employers may overlook that fact." Check your contract to be aware of your rights.
If you are sick and feel layoffs may be looming, consider applying for disability coverage while you are still working. If you’re sick, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are symptomatic and can’t come to work, or if you're suffering severe mental health consequences because of coronavirus, employees should apply for disability coverage while they’re still employed, Davis says. There are some plans where if you’re terminated you no will longer get the same work compensation you would have while still employed.
Reduce your expenses. If your income might be at risk, you should cut back on expenses as much as possible. Sabatier suggests looking for a cheaper place to stay if your lease is almost up, or moving in with (coronavirus-free) friends or family. He says the average American spends over 70 percent of their income on housing, transportation, and food. "Cut back on all three as much as you can so you reduce the amount of money you need each money. One silver lining to the coronavirus is that because so many people are staying home it's harder to spend money."
Start looking for work that you can do online. With social distancing in place, job stability will be found in work that does not need to be done in person. You might be able to get a job quickly proofreading or writing blog posts to make up some of your income gap, Sabatier says. New Yorkers on community pages have also suggested creative ways to make money online such as teaching English to students in international countries or online tutoring for SAT/ACT examinations for kids stuck at home.
IF YOU ARE LAID OFF
Don't be afraid to ask about healthcare continuation. Many employers will allow for healthcare continuation for a month or longer after work ends, especially for people with families. Often if there is a layoff, an employer will provide a severance and include, at a minimum, a 1-3 months of severance payment and a lump sum to pay for COBRA coverage for the same period, Davis says. "The COBRA coverage is particularly important now because it is not a good time to be without health insurance, or to have escalating out of pocket health care costs including unanticipated monthly premiums to pay for. So even if an employer doesn't offer severance, employees should ask for it, and push particularly hard for subsidies to cover at least 1-3 months of COBRA."
Confirm with your employer in writing that they won't contest unemployment. Davis says employees should confirm that their employer believes that their unemployment application is eligible, and won't contest it.
IMMEDIATELY apply for unemployment. Click here to file a new claim for unemployment. If you have a weekly or continued claim, you can click here.
The state has set up a frequently asked questions document for information about coronavirus for workers and employees. There is also a document with detailed instructions on how to file for benefits.
**Please note: the start date for your claim is always on the Sunday of the week when you submit the application for benefits. As a rule, claims are not backdated to your last day of work.**
Think you won’t be able to make rent? Don’t panic. First check your lease to see what the terms around eviction are for you, Davis says. If you feel you may not be able to make your rent, contact one of the free legal services in the city before you do anything (including telling your landlord you can’t pay) to review the lease and determine what the remedial steps are to avoid eviction. He adds that landlords are also recognizing that this is not a good time to evict tenants, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if the state or city had regulatory relief for struggling tenants on the horizon.
Look into accessing your Roth IRA. If you've already been laid off and you don't have any money but have a Roth IRA you can take out your contributions you've made in prior years tax free, Sabatier says. If you have 401k you might be able to take a loan. Look for low-interest products and avoid payday loans. For more specific advice on loans and accessing government assistance programs, click here.
Think you may be about to default on payments? Contact creditors right away and consider sending temporary hardship letters. For more specific advice on how to do this, click here.
Take the opportunity to build new skills. If you're going to be out of work and stuck at home, think about ways to diversify your skills to protect yourself in the long term. "Skills are future currency, especially ones that you can use to make money online and not have to be as reliant on going to an in-person job or having a boss who can lay you off," Sabatier says. Look for free or low-cost online courses, or learn skills like video editing, basic accounting or coding via YouTube. More ideas here.
While some businesses are forced to shutter amid coronavirus fears, others are thriving. Amazon announced Monday it was looking to hire 100,000 new workers to keep up with demand for deliveries.
FOR STRUGGLING BUSINESSES
Filing extensions: The Department of Revenue Services has extended deadlines for filing and payments associated with certain state business tax returns. Details are on DRS’s website.
SharedWork Program: Employers who are furloughing workers can use the Department of Labor’s shared work program, which allows businesses to reduce working hours and have those wages supplemented with unemployment insurance. The program allows employers to reduce the hours of fulltime employees by as much as 60 percent, while their workers collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. All employers with two or more full-time or permanent part-time employees can participate in the program, which is not designed for seasonal separations. To qualify, the business’ reduction of work cannot be less than 10 percent or more than 60 percent. DOL has more information about these and other changes
Try to mitigate impact on employees. Doing what you can to limit the effects of mass layoffs will be in the best financial interest of your business, Davis says. Former employees could have a negative impact on the business in the future even just reputationally. "Every employer has a moral imperative to be humane -- that means softening the blow of any transition in the instance of the pandemic."