Anyone who loses their job in Delaware should get a clear understanding of the state's unemployment insurance (UI) benefit program. This is managed by the Delaware Division of Unemployment Insurance, the agency that accepts claims and determines the eligibility of Delawareans on a case-by-case basis. Out-of-work individuals in Delaware may be eligible for both regular state unemployment benefits and federal pandemic unemployment benefits.
Delaware State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
The Delaware UI program provides benefits to those workers temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Unemployment insurance claimants must have earned a minimum amount of wages in the state's base period to qualify for benefits. Delaware defines the base period as a 12-month period of a claimant's recent work history. The period, calculated backward from the date the individual filed their unemployment claim, is the earliest four of the latest five complete calendar quarters, each made up of three consecutive months, like January through March.
Delaware pays UI benefits weekly to qualified workers, with the benefit amount determined by the wages earned in the base period. The person's total base period earnings must be at least 36 times the weekly benefit amount. The minimum weekly state UI benefit is $20 and the maximum is $400. The normal duration of Delaware state unemployment benefits is 26 weeks.
Federal Benefits Program
While unemployment benefits are usually regulated by the states, the federal government may step in and supplement the state program, if necessary. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many businesses across the country, Congress decided to step in. In March, 2020, it passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist workers who lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The CARES Act expanded eligibility for state UI benefits across the country and also supplemented state unemployment benefits. The initial CARES Act added a supplemental $600 payment per week in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits. It also increased the duration of state benefits by an additional 13 weeks and extended UI eligibility for self-employed and gig workers under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
Extensions to Federal UI Programs
The initial CARES Act provisions were extended several times. The supplemental benefits program of $600 a week ended on July 31, 2020. The federal government amended that provision in December, 2020, with the Continued Assistance Act (CAA). It provided a $300 per week benefit in addition to state-provided benefits running from December 26, 2020, to March 14, 2021. The supplemental payments were further extended through September 6, 2021, by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.
The CAA, the program that extended the benefit duration, was set to expire on December 31, 2020, but was extended to March 14, 2021, and increased to 24 additional weeks. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 extended the ending date to September 6, 2021, and further increased the total number of benefits weeks available to Delaware residents to 70 weeks.
The federal law that allowed self-employed and gig workers to qualify for state UI benefits was set to expire on December 31, 2020. The CAA extended these benefits until March 14, 2021, and they have been further extended by the American Rescue Plan of 2021 to September 6, 2021.
Delaware Unemployment Laws
Those workers who lose jobs in Delaware can apply for unemployment insurance benefits. The claim is made to the Delaware Division of Unemployment Insurance and this agency reviews the information and determines eligibility on an individual basis. Eligibility for state benefits is determined under state law, while eligibility for federal pandemic benefits is reviewed under federal law.
In order to qualify for UI benefits in Delaware, a worker must file an unemployment claim demonstrating that they are eligible. They must show that:
- They are temporarily out of work through no fault or misdeeds of their own.
- They are able to work, available to work and actively seeking employment.
- They earned wages of at least 36 times the claimant's weekly benefit amount during the entire base period.
It is important to understand each of these requirements before applying. Questions on the unemployment insurance claim application will ask for information on all of these topics.
Fault Under Delaware UI Law
In Delaware, one requirement for UI eligibility is whether the employee was fired for fault, meaning misdeeds. For example, a worker who is fired because they assaulted a supervisor will not be eligible for UI benefits because losing the job was due to the misdeed of the worker. But those who are fired for other reasons that do not involve misdeeds may still get benefits, such as workers who are fired because they turned out not to have the necessary skills.
What about a worker who quits their job? In Delaware, a worker who quits is generally not eligible for UI since they opted to leave the job. However, they may remain eligible if they had good cause for quitting. Good cause can be either a work-related reason or a personal reason if it might cause an individual who wants to remain employed leave employment. Quitting for good cause might include:
- Unsafe working conditions.
- Not getting paid or difficulty getting agreed-upon pay.
- Personal medical problems that prevent them from working.
- The worker quits to care for a minor child with a medical illness.
Federal Law Modifies Fault Rules
The fault rules in the state of Delaware, as well as in every other state, were modified by federal pandemic legislation, which added several coronavirus-related reasons to the permissible list of reasons a worker might stop working. For example, a worker is not disqualified from UI in Delaware if they have COVID-19, might have been exposed to the virus, or were told by a doctor to stay home so that they are not exposed to the virus or won't expose others.
They can also get UI benefits if their employer's business closed down or cut back due to coronavirus. Likewise, they may remain eligible if they are caring for a family member who is sick with coronavirus or they are caring for a child at home because the child's school or child care center is closed due to coronavirus.
Minimum Income Requirements
Under Delaware law, an employee is eligible for unemployment coverage only if they earn a certain minimum amount of money during their base period. The state uses the same formula for determining the base period that most states do. A worker's base period is the four earliest of the five three-month calendar quarters completed before the worker filed their UI claim. During the base period, the employee must have earned at least 36 times their weekly benefit amount.
Note that a Delaware worker is eligible for federal benefits only if they meet this state financial requirement first. A failure to meet this disqualifies the worker from both state and federal benefits.
Requirements About Work Searches
A Delaware worker is expected to use UI benefits as a temporary financial bridge between their prior job and a subsequent job. They cannot get Delaware unemployment benefits unless they are available to work and actively seeking work. If the worker can't take a new job because of transportation issues, for example, they are not considered available to work.
To make sure that UI claimants are serious about finding work, Delaware law requires that unemployed workers make at least one job contact every week and keep a documented list of their contacts, which can be audited.
Pandemic Unemployment Modifications
The available-to-work requirement of Delaware state UI law has been modified for certain situations due to the pandemic unemployment situation. Under the CARES Act, a worker need not seek work if they are ill from COVID-19, caring for someone who has COVID-19, or taking care of minor children because schools are closed. If they have been ordered not to leave the house by their doctor or by government order, they can also continue to collect UI without looking for a job.
Applying for Delaware UI
While it is possible for a worker in Delaware to apply in person for UI benefits at a local unemployment office, it is easier and more convenient for most people to apply by phone or online through the TeleBenefits or WebBenefits portals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many people are out of work and filing for benefits, applying online is an especially attractive option. The agency's website has instructions for filing by phone and online.
A worker must have both personal and work information available when they sit down to file their claim. This will include a Social Security number and citizenship or residence information. It also includes information about the last jobs the employee held, such as the employer's business name and address, the dates the employee worked for that business, the number of hours normally worked and the rate of pay.
After the worker is approved for receiving benefits, they must certify every two weeks that they remain eligible. They can do this online by logging in to the state Division of Unemployment Insurance website.
Applying for Federal Pandemic UI
Given the generous supplemental UI benefits offered by the federal government, it makes sense that a worker would be as interested in applying for federal UI aid as Delaware UI aid. However, there is no separate application for federal pandemic unemployment insurance. A worker must apply for Delaware benefits, and the Division of Unemployment Insurance will calculate their federal eligibility and benefits as well.
To get federal supplemental payments, a Delaware unemployed worker must first qualify financially for state UI benefits. However, the requirement of being out of work due to no fault of their own, and the requirement of seeking work and being ready to accept it are modified during the pandemic as described above.
Calculating Delaware UI Benefit
Delaware bases a worker's weekly UI benefit amount on how much money they earned in the base period. Each base period is made up of four calendar quarters. Under state law, the Division of Unemployment Insurance looks at the wages in the two highest-earning calendar quarters. The total wages in these two quarters are added together, then the sum is divided by 46.
For example, if the worker earned $4,600 in each calendar quarter, their total wages in the two highest-earning calendar quarters would be $9,200. When this is divided by 46, the result is $200. Since that amount is between the state minimum of $20 per week and the maximum of $400 per week, the worker will be paid this amount.
Note the second financial requirement for Delaware UI benefits is that the worker's total earnings during the base period must be 36 times their weekly benefits. In this case, 36 times $200 is $7,200, which the worker in the example has clearly met.
Federal Pandemic Benefit Extensions
The federal pandemic legislation offers a worker who is approved for state UI benefits an additional $300 a week in supplemental pandemic UI benefits. Delaware UI benefits generally last for up to 26 weeks. However, federal pandemic legislation has extended the duration of benefits to 70 weeks through September 6, 2021.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.