How to make ends meet if you lose your job under COVID-19

An orange barricade at the entrance of an empty parking lot.
A barricade blocks the entrance to an empty parking lot in front of Macy's at Rosedale Center on Saturday.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

The coronavirus pandemic continues to seep into every aspect of daily life as the spread of COVID-19 has employers across the state to lay off or furlough tens of thousands of Minnesotans.

With no end to the outbreak in sight, many Minnesotans are left trying to pay bills and living expenses with less income than usual — or none at all. However, there’s some help available now from the state.

Expanded unemployment benefits

An executive order from Gov. Tim Walz expands unemployment benefits to people facing these circumstances, according to the state’s website:

  • A health care professional or authority has recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.

  • They’ve been ordered not to come to their workplace due to the outbreak.

  • They have received notification from a school or child care provider classes are cancelled or care is unavailable. People must have made “reasonable effort” to find other child care or get time off work before qualifying.

  • People who’ve had their pay rate or hours “substantially reduced” are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits, as they may qualify.

  • If your employer is requiring you take an unpaid leave, you may be eligible for benefits.

More options for public health insurance

With most people’s access to health care tied to their employment, rampant job loss will also mean people are losing their health insurance.

However, the state has added a special enrollment period for MNsure for people who have lost or will lose their “minimum essential coverage.” It applies for people under the following circumstances, according to MNsure:

  • You or your dependent loses employer-sponsored coverage (includes end of continuation coverage such as COBRA and retiree coverage)

  • There’s been a change to a dependent’s status, such as turning 26 years old and losing coverage through a parent’s plan

  • An employer ends your coverage

  • You or your spouse lose employer-sponsored coverage when you lose or leave a job

  • You've reached the end of your non-calendar year plan

  • You lose coverage in Medical Assistance (MA) or MinnesotaCare

  • You lose other government-sponsored coverage such as most types of TRICARE

Help with food, paying bills

For people in the greatest need, some communities have local organizations that can help with everything from getting assistance with groceries to paying the water bill. However, availability of these programs varies. The United Way’s 211 service is a great place to start seeking health and human services information for yourself or a loved one. Check the online database, chat with someone on the website or dial 211.

Are you unemployed? Tell us what’s going on. And if you have other resources to help people out, share them here.

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