Unemployment Benefits – COVID-19


DC passed special rules allowing you to apply if you or your employer have been affected by the emergency including lost hours or temporary loss of employment. They also got rid of some of the provisions that required you to work for a certain amount of time before accessing Unemployment benefits and to be actively looking for work while unemployed. Learn more from our friends at DC Legal Aid

Many of the documents currently available online include the normal process for applying and receiving benefits. Some restrictions have been waived for the emergency. If you think you might be eligible, you should apply.  

Please do not become discouraged if you experience long wait times and some slowness with the online system. Thousands of people have become suddenly eligible for Unemployment Benefits and are accessing the system. Our allies are also working to ensure that everyone can access the system.

Updated information about Unemployment Compensation during the State of Emergency

What is Unemployment Compensation?

Unemployment Compensation is a weekly cash benefit of up to half of your past wages. How Unemployment Benefits are calculated

How to apply: 

To apply for Unemployment Compensation in DC, call the Department of Employment Services at 202-724-7000 or online at does.dc.gov 

Who is eligible?

If your last employer of at least  30 days was in DC, you can apply for Unemployment Compensation in DC. You can find resources for accessing unemployment compensation in Maryland and Virginia here

You must have a Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number to apply.

COVID-19 emergency changes: 

You can apply for Unemployment Compensation if you lose your job because of the COVID-19 public health emergency.  This includes if:


  1. You are under quarantine or self-quarantine
  2. Your employer shuts down (even temporarily) due to COVID-10
  3. You voluntarily leave your job because your employer is not following the health and safety rules for COVID-19 as required by your doctor of a public health agency – you will need documentation, preferably from your doctor.

Some of the normal rules have been suspended for workers who apply for unemployment benefits because of COVID-19:

  • You do not have to search for work each week (to allow you to stay safe at home)
  • You can apply for unemployment even if you plan to go back to work with this same employer after the public health crisis.

Tipped workers: 

Tipped workers are eligible for unemployment benefits. Your benefit amount will be based on the amount your employer reported that you received in wages and tips. How Unemployment Benefits are calculated

Links for more information

Department of Employment Services

Apply online: this page is in English and Spanish

How Unemployment Benefits are calculated

Unemployment insurance handbook in Spanish

Resource on Unemployment from Councilmember Silverman’s office