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, extending your UI benefits, and a Q&A that addresses many of the frequently asked questions about unemployment benefits. You can also find a list of resources (including one-pagers from our office) below.

New Resources

  • Detailed FAQ on how to use and troubleshoot your UI bankcard. (UPDATED: 12/3/2020)

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: December 3, 2020