The COVID-19 pandemic has sent unemployment to its highest levels since the Great Depression, and older workers have been particularly hard hit, with one in five over age 55 now out of work, according to one estimate.
Many people continue to work beyond retirement age, either by choice or out of necessity, at the same time that they receive Social Security benefits. Other older workers are now being forced to take their benefits early after losing their jobs (although doing so permanently reduces the amount beneficiaries can receive).
If you are already receiving Social Security, are you also eligible for full unemployment benefits? Until recently, the answer was not necessarily. Many states reduced unemployment benefits of those receiving Social Security retirement benefits by up to 50 percent, something called the “Social Security offset.” But after AARP and the National Unemployment Law Project pushed to have these laws overturned, this is no longer the case. In 2015, Illinois became the last state to repeal the Social Security offset.
“These two benefits are not duplicate payments,” the Law Project said at the time. “Older workers who must work or choose to work should not have their unemployment benefits cut or eliminated simply because they have reached the age to qualify for Social Security.”
Similar to Social Security, certain other “unearned” income you may receive, like annuities and investment income, do not count against receiving unemployment insurance. Only earned income affects unemployment benefits.