Over the past year, various establishments such as restaurants, gyms and movie theaters employing part-time workers have shut down. Many college students who work part-time jobs while attending school have been left unemployed and confused and applying for unemployment benefits is not an easy task. Not having the proper documentation or failing to answer a question correctly could mean being denied benefits that many of us desperately need right now.
Working at a gym during a pandemic is not a sure thing; my place of work has shut down multiple times since March 2020. I’ve had to turn to unemployment benefits twice and I have run into many issues with the Connecticut Department of Labor. It is a stressful time for all of us right now and being on hold with customer service for 30 minutes is one more problem we don’t need.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of January 2021, people aged 16 to 24 hold the current highest rates of unemployment. More specifically, 14.2% of 18 and 19 year olds are unemployed while 9.7% of 20 to 24 year olds are unemployed.
This means that heading to the unemployment website to file for benefits during the pandemic may be inevitable for many college students. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, anyone who was fully or partially employed, unemployed for no fault of their own, and mentally and physically able to work is eligible for unemployment benefits. With the current $300 bonus per week, most part-time workers, such as college students, could rely solely on unemployment benefits to fund their day-to-day needs.
While some of us may be lucky enough to qualify for and live off of state benefits, that doesn’t make filing for them much simpler.
As of February, Sasha Krivosky, a Central Connecticut State University student who lost her job at a fitness center in December due to the COVID-19 pandemic, still has yet to receive any unemployment pay due to issues filing her claim.
“I answered one of the questions wrong and my application was denied,” Krivosky said.
Since being denied, Krivosky has called the Connecticut Department of Labor multiple times but has been unable to get in touch with them.
“Every time I call I get put on hold and eventually hung up on,” Krivosky said. “I have tried to fix the issue so many times, but obviously one mistake meant that I would have no income for two months now.”
Krivosky said that she urges those applying for unemployment to pay close attention to the questions and take their time. It is crucial that you take your time and be thorough when applying.
Now that I am three months into my second stint of receiving unemployment, I have picked up a few tricks to make the process fairly painless. Navigating services provided by state governments is never a walk in the park, but following these steps should simplify the lengthy process.
1. Have Your Documents Ready Before You Begin
The most aggravating issue I have run into is scrambling to find information while filing an unemployment claim. The Connecticut Department of Labor website will time-out if you are inactive for more than 10 minutes, which means that leaving the tab to search for your
financial records could result in starting the entire process over. Have your financial records for the past year readily available before you begin. You will be asked specific questions about your finances, so the more information you have, the better. I would also ask your former employer for an unemployment notice. This has specific information you will need that you probably wouldn’t know otherwise, such as your employer’s registration number, the exact date you began working, etc. Getting all of this information ready may seem unnecessary, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
2. Head To the Connecticut Department of Labor Website
Whether this is your first or third time filing for unemployment, you will need to file a new claim. You can start this process by going to the Connecticut Department of Labor website. The site has a lot of information and can seem overwhelming, but only pay attention to the “New Claims” section. When you begin to file a new claim and make your account through the website, use an email that you access regularly; you will be sent important information from the department in the future. Once you have an account set up, you are ready to begin the filing process.
3. Read Each Question Very Carefully
I keep drilling this point in for a reason; you do not want to enter a question incorrectly. Be sure to be honest and meticulous when submitting your answers. The department’s website is riddled with warnings about providing fraudulent information. I found the “Guide for Filing CT Unemployment Claims” provided by the Connecticut Department of Labor to be extremely helpful. The guide breaks down each question and explains it. Double check all of your answers before submitting to be sure that they are accurate. Once you have submitted your application, you should receive a confirmation email letting you know that it went through.
4. Be Sure to Set Up Your User Account
Although you have already made an account in order to file your claim, you have to create a separate user account in order to receive your payments. To do this, go back to the Connecticut Department of Labor website and create a user account. Be sure to save your login information in a safe place for future reference. Once you have created this account, you will be able to link a bank account for all future payments. It is imperative that you do not skip this step, otherwise you will be unable to collect payments
5. Keep An Eye On Your Email
All future correspondence with the department will be through email. Your next email regarding unemployment will likely either be a notice that your claim has been processed, is on hold, or has been denied. All of these emails will provide you with the next steps to take. The second time I filed, my claim was originally put on hold. Sadly, there is not much you can do about this. In my case, it was put on hold so that they could verify my unemployment. While this was frustrating, I received an email 13 days later that my claim was processed. If your claim is on hold for more than two weeks or if it is denied, reach out to the department to move the process along. Once your claim has been processed, be sure to keep up with your weekly claims. This can be done through the department’s website. You have to answer a few questions every week in order to keep your unemployment benefits active. Set a reminder on your phone to do this every week because missing a week will likely result in having to file a new claim all over again. Isn’t that fun?