Unemployment Insurance for DC Workers

If you are an unemployed DC worker, including workers affected by COVID-19, the District has programs that may be able to help. Our strongest protection for District workers at risk of losing their paycheck is Unemployment Insurance (UI).

If you are an unemployed DC worker, including workers affected by COVID-19, the District has programs that may be able to help. Our strongest protection for District workers at risk of losing their paycheck is Unemployment Insurance (UI). Directions on how to start the process of applying for UI are on the Department of Employment Services (DOES) website

Here you can find up-to-date information on UI and other wage-replacement programs,Lost Wages Assistance, extending your UI benefits, and a Q&A that addresses many of the frequently asked questions we are receiving about unemployment benefits. You can also find a list of resources (including one-pagers from our office) below.

Lost Wages Assistance

(Get $300/week in additional federal funds added to your benefit!)

Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) is a federal program that provides an additional $300/week benefit to eligible DC workers for up to six weeks. LWA replaced the previous federal support of $600/week for Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance users that was offered as part of the federal CARES Act, which expired at the end of August 2020. Click here for the DOES FAQ.

Do I have to fill anything out to receive the extra $300/week?

YES! You must self-certify on the DOES Claimant Services portal. When you log into the portal, you will see a self-certification question asking if you are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19. If you select "yes," you will be certified to receive LWA. 

Who is eligible for LWA?

  • DC workers who are eligible for a weekly benefit of at least $100 from one of the following unemployment programs: DC Unemployment Insurance (UI); Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC); Extended Benefits (EB); Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA); Shared Work (Short-Time Compensation)
  • DC workers who self-certify they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19.

Note: You may not be eligible to receive LWA for particular week if you earned excessive wages that week.

How do I certify?

  • Online: Beginning September 19, 2020, when you log in to your Claimant Services portal on www.dcnetworks.org, you will see with a self-certification question for LWA. 
  • Phone: Those lacking computer or internet access can call (202) 724-7000 and a DOES staff person will assist you with your self-certification.
  • In-person: Paper certification forms will be available at DOES headquarters at 4058 Minnesota Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20019.

PLEASE NOTE: The online self-certification can only be completed once! If you complete the self-certification incorrectly, you will have to get assistance from a DOES agent to change your answers.

When is LWA available and for how long?

LWA benefits are available to begin paying out as of September 22, 2020. Benefits are currently available for the weeks ending August 1, 2020 through September 5, 2020 and payments will be made retroactively to those dates. 

As of September 21, the District has been approved for four of the possible six weeks of federal funding and expects to be approved for the two additional weeks soon.

How will I receive the funds?

After you have certified, LWA benefits will be paid in a single lump sum retroactive to your earliest date of eligibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m unemployed, or I’ve had my hours cut from a District-based business due to COVID-19. What cash assistance is available?

Apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) at dcnetworks.org to receive the District’s weekly benefit (maximum of $444/week) for up to 39 weeks. Gig workers, independent contractors, and self employed persons are also eligible for unemployment assistance through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, scroll down for those details. 

How do I apply for UI?

It is best to use a desktop or laptop computer to fill out application online at dcnetworks.org. The application is most compatible with the Internet Explorer browser and cannot be filed using a cell phone.

If you don’t have computer and internet access, call 202-724-7000.

When will I get my UI benefits?

Processing takes roughly 21 days after you apply, though this may be longer given the unprecedented number of applications DOES has been receiving. Learn more about what to expect here.

As a parent or caregiver, do I qualify for any kind of leave/assistance program to help me take time off work to manage my child's schooling?

Yes! Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Acts, you may qualify for expanded family leave support. For more information on this kind of assistance, please see the Department of Labor's FAQ, in particular, questions 43 and 70. You may also find this piece from CNBC, which explains options for parents and caregivers, useful. 

I’m a gig worker, independent contractor, or self-employed. What cash assistance is available for me?

The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program expands UI eligibility to include self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with limited work history. Before you file for PUA, you must file for regular UI benefits. Please carefully review How to File a PUA Claim. At the end of the Initial Claim for regular UI benefits, you will be presented with a link directing you to the PUA application. You can access the PUA application directly by clicking here.

If you are eligible for PUA, then you must file your weekly continued claim forms through Claimant Services for all weeks you are requesting benefits. PUA is effective February 2, 2020 through December 26, 2020 and will include the extra $300 in Lost Wages Assistance.

My UI benefits recently ran out. Is additional assistance available?

Yes. DC workers who have received UI benefits (note that these benefits are not available for PUA recipients) and are still unemployed due to COVID-19 may be eligible for two additional assistance programs: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and the Extended Benefits (EB) program.

Find more details about PEUC and EB on our page, How to Extend Your UI Benefits. Click here to download our one-page Fact Sheet on both programs.

I’m an undocumented District worker. Can I access UI?

Unfortunately, undocumented workers are excluded from UI in DC. The Council has, however, provided $10 million in funds for undocumented persons through the DC Cares program. This program is overseen by Events DC and cash assistance is distributed through the following non-profit partners. Please reach out to these organizations if you are in need of DC Cares assistance. 

Do I qualify for paid sick leave? If so, is there a waiting period before I can use this leave?

All District workers qualify for some paid sick leave. You can learn more about how much sick leave District workers have here and read an overview of how the federal aid package expands paid sick time here. Take this questionnaire from Family Values Work to understand your rights to paid leave and paid sick time under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

What happens if I use up all my sick leave and I’m immunocompromised?

If you have a disability such as a compromised immune system, your employer may be required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation such as telecommuting. Click here for more information about reasonable accommodations.

Do I need to prove I am looking for work? And can I earn money while getting UI?

DC has waived the work search requirement and the seven day waiting period to start UI during the coronavirus pandemic. There are restrictions on how much you can earn to still qualify for UI.  

What documents/information do I need when applying?

  • Name, address, phone number of employer
  • Dates of employment
  • Social Security Number
  • If not U.S. citizen, alien registration number
  • If ex-military, DD-214
  • If former federal employee, Standard Form 8 or 50
  • Any severance pay from your employer
  • Any pension benefit

Who can I talk to about my rights?

Washington Lawyers' Committee Workers' Rights Clinic, 202-319-1000

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, 202-628-1161

The Claimant Advocacy Program (CAP) of the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, 202-974-8159 or 202-974-8149

Quick Guides and Resources

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Office Resources

District Resources

Federal Resources

*This page last updated: September 25, 2020