Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research may determine where and how companies appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Claire Zielinski works a restaurant shift in Bay City, Michigan on June 9, 2020. She's one of thousands of Americans enrolled in a little-known federal program that helps workers qualify for unemployment insurance after they return to work.
Claire Zielinski works a restaurant shift in Bay City, Michigan on June 9, 2020. She's one of thousands of Americans enrolled in a little-known federal program that helps workers qualify for unemployment insurance after they return to work.
Christina Wright

When Claire Zielinski's boss called to invite her back to work as a restaurant server after two months of receiving unemployment benefits, the single mother in Bay City, Mi., wasn’t sure if it would be worth it.

Like millions of other out-of-work Americans, Zielinski was benefiting from the extra $600 a week the federal stimulus package set aside for unemployed workers, in addition to the traditional unemployment insurance payments the state of Michigan was sending her.

But then Zielinski's boss gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse: She could work just 23 hours per week, be paid for a full 40, and keep that $600 per week benefit until it runs out at the end of July.

The 26-year-old is one of thousands Americans participating in a “work share program” that’s put some people many in better financial standing than they were before the shutdown — at least temporarily.

“I’m definitely making more,” says Zielinski, who works for Old City Hall, a restaurant owned by Downtown Restaurant Investments, a restaurant group that helped enroll her in the offering. “The world slowed down, but my life didn’t slow down with my bills and my kid.”

Work share has been around since the 1930s: Pre-COVID-19, 27 states used it as a way for full-time employees to work part-time while also collecting partial unemployment benefits.