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Can You Get Unemployment Benefits and Social Security at the Same Time?

By Christy Bieber - Jun 5, 2020 at 8:30AM

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It's usually possible, but there are some caveats based on age and employment status.

Because of the coronavirus and the Great Lockdown, jobless claims have hit record highs. To help ensure the unemployed can continue to cover their financial obligations, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act for short) provides expanded unemployment benefits. Provisions of the CARES Act included extending these benefits to some independent contractors as well as authorizing an extra $600 in weekly benefits above state maximum limits. 

If you're in your 60s and you've been laid off because of the coronavirus, you'll likely want to claim these unemployment benefits, but may also be eligible for Social Security as well. If so, you may be wondering if it's possible to claim both benefits at the same time.

Woman doing an Internet search for "Find job."

Image source: Getty Images.

Here are the rules for getting Social Security while on unemployment

If you're hoping to collect both Social Security and unemployment, you're in luck: There's nothing standing in your way of getting both. 

As long as you qualify for unemployment under your state's requirements, you can get these benefits even if you're on Social Security. And while unemployment benefits can be reduced under state rules if you earn income from doing work while you're receiving them, you won't see your checks reduced based on money coming from the Social Security Administration. Although some states did dock benefits in the past, they've all repealed rules allowing that. 

And money from unemployment also won't count as wages that affect the amount of your Social Security checks, so there will be no reduction in your retirement benefits based on your jobless benefits. 

In short, you can get the full amount of both unemployment and Social Security that you're entitled to under each program, which can really go a long way toward helping you make ends meet. 

Your Social Security benefits could be affected if you go back to work

Although your Social Security checks aren't affected by income you receive from jobless benefits, they are impacted by money you get if you work. So if you're hoping to find a job again, you may want to think twice about claiming Social Security after a layoff. 

The specific impact that working will have on your Social Security benefits depends on how old you are and how much you're earning at your job. If you've already hit your full retirement age (FRA), you can work as much as you want. But if you're under that age, you'll see your benefits reduced once you've hit a certain earnings limit.

If you'll be below FRA for the entirety of 2020 and you work this year, you can earn a maximum of $18,240 in income from a job before losing any of your benefits. Your Social Security income will be reduced by $1 for every $2 earned above that threshold. If you'll reach your FRA this year but want to work before you do, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 earned above a higher annual limit of $48,600. But once you actually hit FRA, you won't see any reduction at all in the months after. 

If you lose out on Social Security benefits by going back to work and earning above the allowable amount, the money doesn't disappear forever. At your full retirement age, your benefits are recalculated to account for it and your monthly checks get a little bit higher. Still, you may find it isn't worth claiming Social Security while you're temporarily unemployed if your benefits will just disappear once you get back to work, especially if you're claiming benefits early and risking early filing penalties because of it. 

Make sure you understand the benefits you're entitled to

Maximizing your benefits is more important than ever as fears of a coronavirus-based recession mount. By understanding the rules for claiming Social Security and unemployment at the same time, you can ensure you get the money you need to support yourself and your loved ones. 

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