COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits (FAQ)
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
For updates on employment benefits and complete information, please visit:
Can I apply for unemployment benefits if my employer stops work due to COVID-19?
Yes. Montana is extending unemployment benefits to individuals who are told to leave work without pay due to COVID-19. Even if your employer tells you that you can return to work when the business reopens, you are eligible for unemployment benefits. If you apply and receive unemployment benefits, you will be responsible for staying in contact with your employer and returning to work as soon as your employer allows you to. If you are working remotely, the benefits are not available to you. To apply, visit montanaworks.gov or call the Unemployment Insurance Division at (406) 444-2545.
Can I apply for unemployment benefits if I’m unable to work because I contracted COVID-19?
Yes. Individuals who have to leave work without pay due to having COVID-19 or being in quarantine are eligible for unemployment. To apply, visit montanaworks.gov or call the Unemployment Insurance Division at (406) 444-2545.
I have to take care of someone with COVID-19 and cannot work. Can I apply for unemployment benefits?
Yes. Individuals who have to leave work without pay to care for someone with COVID are eligible for unemployment benefits. To apply, visit montanaworks.gov or call the Unemployment Insurance Division at (406) 444-2545.
Do I have to prove I am looking for work to receive unemployment benefits?
If you are receiving unemployment benefits because of COVID-19, you do not have to prove you are looking for work. For more information, visit montanaworks.gov.
What if I am having trouble applying for unemployment online?
The website to apply for unemployment in Montana is experiencing heavy traffic, and you might run into delays using the portal. All websites slow down when there is a lot of people using them at once. The Montana Department of Labor set up a help page for trouble logging into the site.
I am having problems with the application. What can I do?
The Montana Department of Labor set up an FAQ page on common issues with applying for unemployment.
How long do I have to wait to receive my unemployment benefits?
Montana has waived the one week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits. If you are experiencing a delay in receiving your benefits, visit montanaworks.gov or call the Unemployment Insurance Division at (406) 444-2545.
What can I do if I applied for unemployment but still haven't received any benefits?
If you’ve already applied for unemployment, it’s a good idea to file weekly payment requests at MontanaWorks.gov. This will allow you to receive backpay if your application is approved. You can call the Montana Department of Labor at (406) 444-2545. The Montana Department of Labor is getting a lot of calls and so you may need to call back multiple times. Keep track of the date you first applied and write down every time you call the office and who you speak to when you call. The application process should take seven (7) days after the new, faster COVID-19 process.
Where can I find the COVID Unemployment Benefits & Scenarios chart?
The COVID Unemployment Benefits & Scenarios chart shows which scenarios you can get unemployment benefits. Download the chart below or view Benefits & Scenarios chart in your web browser.
What if I am self employed? Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
As a self-employed contractor, you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits under the federal legislation, known as the CARES Act. The benefit is designed for self-employed, independent contractors, those people who are generally not otherwise covered by unemployment insurance, and who are unable to work due to the COVID emergency.
How to prepare to apply for benefits:
- Gather proof of income documents together – recent tax return, 1099s, whatever documents show past earnings.
- Be patient. We will know more and we will be able to assist you after we have implemented the mechanisms to process these types of benefits. We will be updating this page regularly to provide additional information as it is available.
Where can I find more information about unemployment benefits and COVID-19?
- Check out the Montana Department of Labor's COVID-19 FAQ page to learn more.
- Learn more about how the CARES Act impacts unemployment.
- Check out the FAQ page for technical questions about MontanaWorks.
- Learn about PUA for the self-employed.
Apply for Unemployment
For more information on how to protect you and your family from COVID-19, visit:
If you have any questions about your rights, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer.
- The State Bar Lawyer Referral Service may provide you with contact information for attorneys who provide the type of assistance you are seeking, for a fee. You can contact the State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (406) 449-6577 or montanabar.org.
- Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil, non-criminal legal help to eligible clients. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help in Montana.
- If you qualify for help from MLSA, you may be able to get free legal advice from a volunteer attorney by email using Ask Karla.