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Unemployment for Coronavirus in North Carolina

PLEASE BE AWARE: Riddle & Brantley does not practice employment law. We are providing these resources in order to help North Carolinians understand the new requirements for unemployment benefits specific to COVID-19, but we cannot advise or assist with employment law matters beyond workers’ compensation. This information is provided solely as a helpful resource.



Many North Carolinians have lost their jobs or have seen their hours reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Riddle & Brantley is providing the following free information on unemployment benefits for North Carolinians even though this is not a legal area we handle.

We think it is important for our friends in North Carolina to have this information, particularly considering the COVID-19 virus and the economic toll it has taken on our state.

We want all North Carolina residents to stay healthy and well informed during this crisis.

Do I qualify for North Carolina unemployment benefits?

Unemployment for Coronavirus in North CarolinaNorth Carolina employees who are temporarily out of work by no fault of their own (including due to the coronavirus / COVID-19) may qualify for unemployment benefits. Eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts as well as other details may vary.

UPDATE: As of April 24, 2020, independent contractors, freelancers, and those self-employed are also eligible for unemployment benefits in North Carolina under the CARES Act.

The North Carolina Department of Employment Security has released the following graphic summarizing benefits available to claimants, depending on their circumstances:

North Carolina Unemployment Benefits During COVID-19

Below are some rules and resources for collecting unemployment compensation in North Carolina.

Unemployment Due to Coronavirus / COVID-19 in North Carolina

***PLEASE NOTE: Certain requirements have been waived or modified for North Carolinians applying for unemployment due to coronavirus-related job loss. For more information on COVID-19-specific waivers and rules for unemployment in North Carolina, please visit the Division of Employment Security’s COVID-19 information page.


Eligibility for unemployment benefits is reviewed on a case-by-case basis in North Carolina by the Division of Employment Security (DES). Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to collect unemployment benefits in North Carolina, including:

  • Past earnings must meet determined minimum thresholds.
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. This is defined by North Carolina law.
  • You must be actively seeking employment.
  • You must be able and available to work.

Please note that independent contractors, freelancers, and those self-employed are now eligible for benefits in North Carolina, as well.

North Carolina Unemployment Benefits for COVID-19***COVID-19 UPDATE: Due to executive order by Governor Roy Cooper, the “actively seeking employment” requirement has been waived for unemployment caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The one-week waiting period for applying for unemployment benefits has also been waived.

North Carolina looks at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year base period in order to determine your eligibility for unemployment.  A base period is a one-year time span consisting of the last four out of the most recent five calendar quarters worked before your claim is filed.  During the base period, you must have earned wages in at least two quarters and you must also have earned at least $780 in one of the last two quarters of the base period.

Causes of Unemployment

Remember you must be out of work through no fault of your own in order to qualify for North Carolina unemployment benefits.

***COVID-19 UPDATE: In North Carolina, those unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak are now able to list COVID-19 as the reason for their unemployment.


If you were fired because you didn’t have the proper skills to perform the job, or you were not a good fit, you may still be able to receive unemployment benefits. If the reason you were fired was not for improper behavior, you may still be eligible for unemployment.

In North Carolina, misconduct or improper behavior means that the employee’s actions were serious or frequent enough to show intentional or careless disregard for the employer and their interests.


You should meet North Carolina requirements for unemployment benefits if you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or your employer downsized for economic reasons.

***COVID-19 UPDATE: Many North Carolinians have been laid off during to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. By executive order, this type of layoff does qualify for unemployment benefits in North Carolina. You can list “coronavirus” as the reason for your unemployment in applying for benefits.

Quitting Your Job

NC Unemployment Benefits for CoronavirusYou won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job unless you had a good cause for quitting.  An example of a good reason for quitting a job would be if your military spouse was relocated to another state.

There are other circumstances that may qualify as good causes for quitting a job.  However, the DES will look at each case individually and decide.

Are you available to work?

In order to maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work. You must remain available to accept a job as well as currently looking for employment. Should you be offered a suitable position, you are required to take it.  The suitability of a job depends on several factors, including:

  • What is the level of skill and training required?
  • What is the similarity between the work provided and your previous employment?
  • How much does the position pay?
  • What is the distance between this job site and your previous employer’s job site?

It is also important to know that after ten weeks of receiving benefits, any job that pays 120% of your weekly benefit is considered suitable work.

You must reasonably search for work. You must contact two different employers on two separate days of the week. It is important to keep a log of the dates and times you contacted a potential employer as well as the outcome. The Division of Employment Security will ask you to provide weekly certification verifying you have been trying to find work.  You will be required to register for work by constructing a resume at www.ncworks.gov.

***COVID-19 UPDATE: The governor has waived the job search requirement for those receiving unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus.

What is the amount and duration of unemployment benefits in North Carolina?

The DES will determine your weekly benefit amount by simply adding your wages earned in the last 2 quarters of the base period and dividing that number by 52. The maximum benefit is up to $350 per week and benefits last up to 20 weeks.

***COVID-19 UPDATE: The federal government’s $600 per week in additional unemployment assistance for those who have lost work due to the coronavirus has expired. These additional benefits were available for the weeks of April 4-July 31. Congress is currently negotiating another COVID-19 relief bill, which may include additional enhanced benefits, but the outcome is uncertain. For the most up-to-date information on these additional federal benefits, stay tuned to the DES coronavirus unemployment updates page.

How do I file a claim for unemployment benefits in North Carolina?

You may file a claim for unemployment benefits online, by phone, fax or mail. For online filing information and any contact information go to www.desncc.com. Once DES receives your application, they will send you documents. These documents will include a Wage Transcript as well as a Monetary Determination which indicates your potential weekly benefit amount and duration.

What do I need to apply for NC unemployment?

  • Social Security number
  • Home address and mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • A valid email address
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need an Alien Registration number
  • If you were on active duty in the United States military in the past 18 months, you will need DD Form 214, Member 4 (you can request a copy of this form online)
  • If you worked for the federal government in the last 18 months, you will need Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50
  • All employment information for the past 18 months, including contact information, dates you worked and the reason for your dismissal
  • Your gross earnings during your last week of employment
  • Amount of severance pay, if any
  • List of other states where you have worked in the last 18 months
  • If you decide you want to have your payments made by direct deposit, you must supply appropriate information (bank name, account, and routing number)

North Carolina’s unemployment program has a one-week waiting period. You won’t be paid benefits during this week.  You must serve an unpaid waiting week each time you apply for North Carolina unemployment benefits during your established benefit year.

***COVID-19 UPDATE: The one-week waiting period for benefits for those unemployed due to the coronavirus has been waived. For more information on COVID-19-specific waivers and rule changes, please visit the DES coronavirus updates page.

How do I appeal a denial of unemployment benefits in North Carolina?

Should your unemployment benefit claim be denied, you have 10 days to appeal the decision.

This is called a “Higher Authority Review.” This review is conducted by the DES Assistant Secretary, the Board of the Review, or another designated administrative official. Make sure your request for appeal is in writing.

Once your appeal request is received, the Higher Authority will review the record and decide on your appeal. Usually, a decision is made based on a review of your documents and testimony already in the record. On rare occasions, the Higher Authority may schedule another hearing to receive evidence.

Should you disagree with the Higher Authority decision, you can ask for reconsideration within the DES (within 10 days), or you may file an appeal in the North Carolina Superior court.  This appeal must be done within 30 days.

Next Steps for Applying for Unemployment in North Carolina

The DES provides additional information on unemployment benefits on its website, www.desncc.com.  Once on the site, select “Claimant Services” to apply for benefits and learn more about eligibility requirements, potential benefits and more.

Forbearance Laws

If you are struggling to keep up with rent, mortgage payments, utility payments, and other expenses during the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government and state governments have announced a series of actions designed to help you.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has frozen foreclosures and evictions for single-family homeowners whose mortgages are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. More information is available from HUD online.

For more information on other programs and policies designed to help those in financial distress during this crisis, please check out these resources included in a recent report by ABC11 in Raleigh.

Riddle & Brantley Supports the People of North Carolina

In this time of uncertainty, Riddle & Brantley is here for you.

Workers Comp Benefits for the CoronavirusOur North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys are ready to help with potential COVID-19-related workers’ comp claims. Please call 1-800-525-7111 for a free, no-obligation consultation. 

IMPORTANT: Although we are not Unemployment Benefits lawyers, we are concerned about our friends and neighbors throughout North Carolina. We do not practice employment law but may be able to assist with workers’ compensation and Social Security disability matters.

We want to provide this free unemployment information to you so you can better understand your options.

We are in this together and we will get through this together.

Stay safe, take care of your loved ones and be kind to all.

Justice Counts for you and your family.