COVID-19 layoffs: What to do now

See how to tap into the stimulus plan and employee benefits.

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Key takeaways

  • Make the most of your employer benefits, including health insurance coverage and career coaching options.
  • You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, depending on your personal situation.
  • As you transition to a new role, try to stay positive by focusing on family, friends, and the future.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought anxiety and insecurity about our health, and turned our work lives upside down. With the unemployment rate rising, millions of individuals will be suddenly faced with the loss of a job or income—or the potential to lose both.

"It's important to acknowledge that even if you saw it coming, it's incredibly shocking to experience this kind of change so quickly," says Meredith Stoddard, experience lead, Life Events Planning at Fidelity Investments. "For many people, their identities are tied up in their work. Talking about getting laid off can be really hard to do at first, but it is immensely helpful in coming to terms with what happened."

As you navigate this difficult period, try to stay positive by focusing on family, friends, and the future you will begin building during this transition. In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to minimize the financial impact.

Make the most of employer benefits. Ask your human resources representative, what (if any) benefits you are entitled to after your termination date. Ask questions about health insurance. See if you have any unused vacation days or paid time off that will be in your final paycheck. Your employer may also provide career counseling, resume help, or other outplacement services to help you find a new job. "If your manager is willing to give you a letter of recommendation, or an endorsement on LinkedIn®, now is the time to get it," Stoddard says.

Find health care coverage. If you're furloughed and on a temporary leave, your employer may continue to offer health benefits. That said, you'll likely still be responsible for your share of health care premiums.

If you've lost your job, however, you can typically keep your employer health plan for up to 3 years, under a federal program known as COBRA, but you pay the entire premium. Ask your human resources contact if your employer is subsidizing COBRA coverage for a period of time.

If you have a high-deductible health plan and a health savings account, you can use those funds to pay for COBRA premiums and a broad range of medical costs like vaccinations, chiropractic services, and diabetes testing supplies. Also, the CARES Act added telemedicine services.

File for unemployment benefits. To receive unemployment insurance benefits, file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked—either via telephone or online. Be patient if you call, as it's likely that you'll experience longer than usual wait times considering the number of claims being filed.

If you're an independent contractor, you may also be eligible for unemployment benefits, depending on your personal situation and how your state implements the CARES Act. States are permitted to provide Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation.

"State unemployment sites and phones are inundated in most places right now," Stoddard says. "It can be frustrating, but don't give up."

Read Viewpoints on Fidelity.com: 9 things to know about the COVID-19 stimulus bills

Set sights on new work in a new economy

"The world of work has changed since COVID-19 and finding a new job will require a strong effort on your part," Stoddard says. "Be open minded about opportunities. Stretch the boundaries of what you're willing to consider and evaluate your ability to contribute to an organization by figuring out how your skills might apply in different roles. The process may test your patience, and confidence at times, but get back up each day and get out there," she says.

Here are 6 job hunting tips:

  1. Be proactive and add skills or brush up existing ones via online learning. Learn a new digital platform like Zoom, Slack®, or Basecamp®. Remote work is likely to remain popular, as employers see the cost-savings benefits.
  2. Take an online class, or enroll in a course for certification. Log on to free webinars and podcasts in subjects that you're curious about.
  3. Revamp your resume and LinkedIn profile. Search for LinkedIn contacts who might be able to help you get an interview with a firm that has job openings where you might be a good fit.
  4. Build your network via social media, and even via the old-fashioned telephone call. Join professional groups on LinkedIn and Facebook™. Consider hiring a career coach to help you job hunt. Most are available for telephone or video appointments.
  5. Write down some of the highlights of your work and education and ask close friends and colleagues to chime in. This is a great way to "remind yourself what you're good at, where your value lies, and start to dream about what is possible," Stoddard says. "Pace yourself. Decide how many hours a day you'll dedicate to job searches, networking, interviewing, and self-discovery," she says.
  6. Investigate work-from-home jobs. Sites that focus on remote work such as FlexJobs.com, Remote.co, and WAHVE.com can help find work you can do from home as well as screen for legitimate employers. Also consider opportunities for contract, project, or part-time work.

Tip: See job loss and related career resources on Fidelity Life Events

Review your emergency fund and plan for the unexpected

"For those of who have emergency savings, it may be the time to consider whether you need to tap into it to keep yourself afloat," Stoddard says.

One final note: "Take care of yourself. Get outside daily, if it is safe to do so. Make time for what's important to you, like family, friends, simple pleasures, or volunteering," Stoddard says. "Use the time to consider the possibilities. Create a plan and keep working it. With persistence you will find new opportunities."

Next steps to consider



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