In the state of Connecticut, employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own may qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. The state's unemployment insurance program is managed by the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL). This is the agency to which unemployment insurance (UI) claims are submitted. It evaluates individual claimant eligibility and calculates benefits. Unemployed workers in Connecticut may also be eligible for federal pandemic unemployment benefits.
Connecticut State UI Benefits
Connecticut workers who are out of a job through no fault of their own may be eligible for UI benefits. In order to obtain benefits, claimants must also meet other qualifications including actively seeking work and meeting earnings minimums. That is, they must have earned a specified amount of wages during the period designated as the claimant's base period.
Workers in Connecticut who are eligible for unemployment benefits get these benefits on a weekly basis. A qualified worker will get a weekly benefit payment equal to some portion of the wages the worker earned in the two highest earning calendar quarters of their base year.
Federal Benefits Program
Generally, states are in charge of unemployment insurance laws within their borders. But in some circumstances the federal government supplements the state program. It did this in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a lockdown. Many businesses were required to close, causing nonessential workers to become unemployed.
To assist those workers, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act intended to provide extra assistance to workers who lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic. This law expanded eligibility for UI benefits and also provided expanded supplemental unemployment benefits.
The initial CARES Act, passed in March 2020, carried a supplemental payment of $600 per week for unemployed persons. This was termed federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits. The CARES Act also added up to 13 weeks of supplemental unemployment benefits and extended UI eligibility for self-employed and gig workers under a program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Extensions to Federal Programs
The supplemental benefits program ended on July 31, 2020. From then through December 26, 2020, there were no supplemental federal payments. Subsequently, Congress enacted the Continued Assistance Act (CAA) to provide a $300 per week supplemental benefit in addition to state-provided benefits through March 14, 2021. The supplemental payments were 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 that extended the benefit duration by 13 weeks was set to expire on December 31, 2020, but it was amended to provide 24 additional weeks and extended through March 14, 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 further increased the total number of benefit weeks available to Connecticut residents to a total of 64 weeks.
The federal law extending UI benefits to self-employed and gig workers was set to expire on December 31, 2020. However, 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.
Connecticut Unemployment Laws
A worker who loses their job in Connecticut should apply for unemployment insurance benefits from the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL). This agency determines a claimant's eligibility for state benefits and also for federal pandemic benefits based on federal law.
A worker who wants to apply for benefits must file an unemployment claim with the DOL. The information provided is used to determine whether they are eligible under the applicable laws. In order to be eligible for UI under Connecticut law, the worker must show that they:
- Are unemployed through no fault or misdeeds of their own.
- Are able to work, available to work and are actively seeking employment.
- Meet minimum earnings requirements during their base period.
Fault Under Connecticut UI Law
In Connecticut, the reason a worker lost their job is an issue when determining eligibility. Any employee must be out of work due to no fault of their own; they will be ineligible for benefits if they engaged in willful misconduct. In Connecticut, willful misconduct includes any intentional action by the employee that goes against the employer's interests or that violates company policy.
For example, showing up to work drunk or under the influence of drugs qualifies as willful misconduct. Likewise, not showing up for work can also qualify as willful misconduct but only if there were three unexcused absences in the last 12 months. But willful misconduct is not the only type of conduct that precludes UI eligibility. These circumstances may also bar an employee from receiving benefits:
- Committing a serious crime on the job.
- Theft of property or services worth $25 or more.
- Taking part in an illegal strike.
- Beginning a prison sentence of 30 days or more.
- Failing a drug or alcohol test mandated by law.
But a fired worker is not automatically ineligible for UI. A worker in Connecticut may still qualify for benefits if they were fired for reasons other than misdeeds. And a worker who quits a job in Connecticut may still be eligible for UI if they had good cause for quitting, such as:
- Unsafe working conditions.
- Significant changes in the hiring agreement.
- Not getting paid or difficulty getting agreed-upon pay.
A worker who quits for a personal reason usually doesn't qualify for UI, no matter how good the reason. They might be eligible in certain limited circumstances, like when a worker quits to move with their military spouse, to care for a seriously ill spouse or to escape domestic abuse.
Federal Law Modifies Fault Rules
The federal pandemic modified state UI laws by supplementing the list of coronavirus-related reasons a worker can use to leave their job and still be eligible for UI. Under federal law, the worker can stop working and still get UI benefits if the worker:
- Is ill with COVID-19.
- Was exposed to the virus.
- Was advised by a doctor to stay home so they are not exposed to the virus or won't expose others.
- Is staying home to care for someone with COVID-19.
- Is staying home to care for a child at home because the child's school or childcare center is closed due to coronavirus.
Minimum Income Requirements
Under Connecticut law, an employee is eligible for unemployment coverage only if they earn a certain minimum amount of money during their base period. The Connecticut base period is a 12-month segment of time comprising four calendar quarters in the claimant's recent work history. The agency calculates the most recent five calendar quarters completed before the person filed the unemployment claim, then uses the earliest four as the base period. A calendar quarter is three consecutive months, for example, January through March, or October through December.
The state requires that, to be eligible for UI, an employee must have earned during the base period at least 40 times their weekly benefit rate. Note that a Connecticut worker is not eligible for federal pandemic unemployment benefits unless they meet that financial qualification for state benefits. That means that a failure to meet the earnings-based state requirements will disqualify the worker from both state and federal benefits.
Connecticut requires that an unemployed worker be actively seeking work in order to get unemployment benefits. The out-of-work employee must be available to work, prepared to work and actively seeking work. Anyone who is not ready to take a job or is not seeking a job will not get UI benefits. The state generally requires that a worker make a good faith effort to find work each week and be able to provide a report of their contacts if requested.
Pandemic Unemployment Modifications
Federal pandemic legislation has modified the available-to-work requirement of Connecticut UI law in certain situations. Under the CARES Act, a worker is not required to 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.
Calculating Connecticut Benefit Amounts
A worker's UI benefit in Connecticut is calculated by using the wages in the two calendar quarters of their base year in which they earned the most money. The DOL averages these amounts and divides the resulting sum by 26. The result is the worker's weekly benefit as long as it is under the maximum benefit amount of $698. The federal pandemic legislation offers a worker who has been approved for state UI benefits an additional $300 a week in supplemental pandemic UI benefits.
In Connecticut, UI benefits are available for up to a maximum of 26 weeks. However, the CARES Act and other federal laws have extended the duration of benefits to 70 weeks. That provision is effective through September 6, 2021.
FAQs and Answers
Q: How do I apply for UI benefits in Connecticut?
A: A claimant can apply for UI benefits in Connecticut either by phone or online. Directions to apply and additional information can be found at the website of the Connecticut DOL.
Q: How much money will I get every week in UI benefits in Connecticut?
A: A worker who qualifies for UI benefits in Connecticut will get a weekly benefits payment by direct deposit or debit card. The amount of the payment is determined by a formula: the wages in the two highest-earning calendar quarters in their base year are averaged and the result is divided by 26. The maximum benefit is $698. Add to this the $300 weekly benefit from the federal pandemic legislation, which lasts through September 6, 2021.
Q: For how many weeks can I get benefits?
A: Under Connecticut state law, an unemployed person who qualifies for UI benefits can get their weekly benefit for up to 26 weeks. However, this time period has been extended by federal pandemic unemployment legislation to a maximum of 70 weeks of benefits.
Q: Can a self-employed worker or a gig worker get unemployment benefits in Connecticut?
A: Under state law, only employees are entitled to UI benefits in Connecticut. The program is funded by an unemployment insurance tax on employers, and only employees of participating employers are eligible. However, eligibility was expanded to include self-employed persons and gig workers under the federal CARES Act. The law is set to expire on September 6, 2021.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. 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 M.A. and an M.F.A in creative 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.