The purpose of unemployment insurance is to provide workers, who are unemployed through no fault of their own, with monetary payments for a specific period of time or until the worker finds a new job.
Unemployment benefits are provided by state unemployment insurance programs within guidelines established by Federal law. Eligibility for unemployment insurance, benefit amounts and the length of time benefits are available are determined by state law.
In order to receive unemployment compensation, workers must meet the unemployment eligibility requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established (one year) period of time. In addition, workers must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of their own.
Disqualification from Unemployment
The following circumstances may disqualify you from collecting unemployment benefits, depending on state law:
- Quit without good cause
- Fired for misconduct
- Resigned because of illness (check on disability benefits)
- Left to get married
- Involved in a labor dispute
- Attending school
- Regular benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states.
- Additional weeks of benefits are available during times of high unemployment.
- In many states, the compensation will be half your earnings, up to a maximum amount.
- Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return.
Extended Unemployment Benefits
- Additional weeks of extended unemployment benefits, starting after the maximum of 26 weeks of standard state benefits, may be available to eligible unemployed workers during periods of high unemployment. These benefits are provided by the federal government, but paid through the state unemployment system.
- Check with your state unemployment office for information on what benefits you are entitled to.
When to File
Filing for unemployment should be the first item on your agenda when you've been laid off. It might take two or three weeks to collect a check, so the sooner you file, the faster you'll get paid. A delay in filing will mean a delay in collecting.
How to File for Unemployment
You may be able to file for unemployment online or over the phone. Review the information you will need to open a claim. Then, visit your state unemployment office to determine the best way to open a claim and to get started collecting unemployment.
In general, to file a claim you will need:
- Social Security Number
- Alien Registration Card if you're not a US citizen
- Mailing address including zip code
- Phone number
- Names, addresses and dates of employment for all your past employers for the last two years
- It generally takes a few weeks after your claim to receive your first unemployment benefit check, direct deposit or debit card. Some states require a one-week waiting period; therefore, the second week claimed is the first week of payment.
- Once your claim is approved you should be able to file weekly online, by phone or by mail.
When You Quit
Can you collect unemployment if you quit your job? It depends. In most cases, if you voluntarily left employment you are not eligible. However, if you left for "good cause" you may be able to collect. "Good cause" would be determined by the state unemployment office and you will be able to make a case for why you are eligible for benefits. If your claim is denied, you should be entitled to a hearing where you can plead your case.
How to File an Unemployment Appeal
If you have filed an unemployment benefits claim and your claim is turned down or contested by your employer, you have the right to appeal the denial of your unemployment claim. Here's how to file an unemployment appeal.
Registering with the state job service and actively seeking work is a requirement while collecting unemployment. You must be ready, willing, available, and able to work. The Job Service may require job seekers to apply for jobs, submit resumes, and not turn down a position if it meets certain standards.
Your state Job Service Offices are excellent resources to assist with a job search. Many free services are offered including job listings, career counseling, resume and cover letter writing help, and training. Our job listings by state directory has links to state employment services. Take advantage of the help they can give you - it will make your job search easier.
Out of Unemployment Benefits?
If you have run out of unemployment or are about to lose your unemployment benefits, here's what to do when unemployment runs out.
The private web sites, and the information linked to both on and from this site, are opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only.