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MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle: Having trouble filing for unemployment? 4 ways to streamline the process

The MSNBC anchor and NBC senior business correspondent tackles some of the biggest questions Americans are facing when they are trying to file for unemployment as a result of COVID-19.
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle.
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle.MSNBC

At least 26 million Americans have requested unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began. That number is expected to grow, as many affected by COVID-19 related layoffs have reported having trouble filing their claims due to jammed phone lines and crashed websites at unemployment offices from coast to coast.

This is beyond frustrating for everyone. But please - keep trying so you can take of advantage of the benefits being offered to you. That money is yours to claim and put back into the economy. There is no shame in taking help when you need it. Afterall, part of the reason the government provides unemployment benefits is to help re-stimulate the economy.

RELATED: 5 must-know tips before spending your stimulus check

And even if there are delayed payments, you will receive backdated money from the date that your claim was filed.

Remember, you can only file for unemployment if you were let go from your job through no fault of your own. If you quit, or lost your job because you violated company conduct, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

The good news is, despite the trouble many are having filing their claims, help is on the way. The government is aware of the issue, and several state governments are teaming up with tech giants like Amazon and Google to boost the number of claims they can file. Do you mean process? Others are asking retired employees to come back and deal with the onslaught of forms. Budget cuts have kept outdated technology in place for far too long, but government budgets are what they are. States are working to get this problem solved.

In the meantime, here are four tips to help streamline the process of filing for unemployment. To get started, go to and find your state.

1. Check the new coronavirus-specific unemployment guidelines.

There have been a few important changes to unemployment claims through the CARES Act. First, a lot of people who normally wouldn’t qualify for unemployment are allowed to now because of coronavirus’ wide-ranging impact. If you’re a gig economy worker, a freelancer, or a part-time worker, you can claim these benefits. If you work multiple jobs part-time and lose just one of them, you may be able to file for unemployment, depending on your income. And if you’re at home taking care of someone, you may be eligible as well. Check the eligibility FAQs here.

2. Make sure you know your state’s rules - and try to follow them.

Due to the overwhelming demand, a lot of states are implementing different systems to streamline the huge number of claims. For instance, Minnesotans are asked to file based on their social security number, and New Yorkers go by their last names. These measures are put in place to help ease the flow of applications.

3. Have your materials ready.

Each state is a little different, but when you go to file, you should have your social security number, government ID, gross income, and your employer’s information at the ready. Once you do get through over the phone or online, there’s no time to waste trying to gather the necessary information.

4. Don't be afraid to follow up.

If you’re already receiving benefits, you’ll need to log on and continue claiming them as often as your state requires (usually every one to two weeks) to keep getting that check. And, if you are still waiting to log on, please, keep trying. You will get in eventually.