Unemployment Benefits

Over six million people are unemployed in the United States so if you have lost your job, know you are not alone.

Being unemployed is difficult for anyone to deal with, but thankfully, there are unemployment benefits you can claim to ease the burden. However, you must meet the requirements in order to receive this assistance.

You should be able to receive state unemployment insurance, sometimes called UI, if you have become unemployed through no fault of your own. These benefits allow you to cover some expenses while you look for employment. Each state has its own guidelines regarding unemployment benefits, so you need to find out which benefits you are entitled to depending on your state of residence. The following information will help you to learn more about which benefits may be available, how you can apply and what is required in order to be eligible. There is also some helpful information on other programs that may be able to assist you while you seek employment.

What are unemployment benefits?

If you have become unemployed through no fault of your own, it is likely you are eligible for unemployment benefits through the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance programs. The purpose of state unemployment insurance benefits is to give temporary financial aid to newly unemployed people who meet the requirements of the state’s law. Each state has different unemployment insurance programs that are established by federal law. It is therefore important to know what the benefits are for your particular state.

Most states initially pay unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, although extra weeks may be added during stages of high unemployment. Those additional payments are through the extended benefits program. Eligible unemployed people will be contacted when an extended benefits program is available, although it is always worth asking your state agency about the availability of the program if you have not been contacted. In some states, extended unemployment insurance is available for a period of 13 additional weeks, although not everybody who is eligible for state unemployment insurance will be eligible for extended benefits.

If you qualify to receive unemployment benefits, you need to know that they are taxable. When declaring your gross income you are required to include the unemployment benefits you received. If you are receiving any benefits other than state Unemployment Insurance, the tax treatment will be different for each type of program. These benefit programs include:

  • Trade readjustment allowances.
  • Compensation from railroad unemployment benefits.
  • Benefits that are paid from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund by a state or the District of Columbia.
  • Disability benefits, when they are paid in lieu of unemployment compensation.
  • Benefits from the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 program.
  • Benefits from the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974.

Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits

Are you eligible for state unemployment insurance? State laws determine eligibility for unemployment benefits and the amount you can receive, and each state has a set maximum amount you can be paid. Generally, the benefit amounts are based on a percentage of your earnings from the last year. Although each state has its own guidelines for eligibility, you will normally qualify for benefits if:

  • You meet the requirements for work and wage. You must have earned a certain amount and worked for a particular number of hours over an established period of time in order to meet individual states’ requirements.
  • You are unemployed through no fault of your own. This usually means you have to have been terminated from your job due to a lack of available work and/or there was no misconduct on your part. If you were wrongfully terminated from your place of employment. You can be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • You meet additional requirements. Because each state may have its own additional guidelines, it is important to check which other additional requirements may be required for you to be eligible.

Most state programs require you to file weekly or biweekly claims, report any earnings you have received over that period and report any job offers you had in that time. You may also need to report to your American Job Center or unemployment insurance claims office. Failure to attend the designated appointment can result in benefit denial. Some states may also require you to register for work with the State Employment Service.

Application for Unemployment Benefits

To apply for unemployment benefits, you will need to file a claim in the state where you worked. As soon as you have been terminated from your job, you should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program because the approval process does not always happen right away. Additionally, many states may have a one-week waiting period win which you cannot receive benefits for any claims. Many states now require online filing for unemployment benefits, although some states provide toll-free numbers you can call and offer other ways to claim. When filing a claim, you will need to provide personal information, so make sure you know what is required for your particular state’s program. Generally, it takes two to three weeks after filing your claim to receive your first benefit payment.

Each state makes its own decisions about your eligibility for the unemployment insurance program.

Applications can be rejected for various reasons, although if your application is not accepted, you are allowed to appeal for reconsideration. Some of the most common reasons for benefits being denied are:

  • You voluntarily left your workplace without good cause. However, if you quit under specific circumstances, you may be entitled to benefits depending on your state’s law, so it is always worth checking.
  • You were discharged for misconduct at work or misconduct connected with work. Misconduct is showing a deliberate disregard to your employer’s interests.
  • You are not available to work. If you simply do not want to work without any reason, you will not receive benefits. You must be able-bodied and willing to accept a job in order to receive state Unemployment Insurance.
  • You make false statements to obtain benefits. If you are trying to fraudulently obtain benefits, you are breaking the law. Submitting a fraudulent application means you are liable for both felony and criminal penalties. Types of benefit fraud include falsifying material facts, falsifying medical conditions, falsifying wages and hiding critical information.

Unemployment Programs

If you are unemployed, there are other programs that can assist you. Here are three ways in which you could get additional help:

  • Extending Health Plans. Workers and their families have the right to continue their group health coverage plans for limited periods of time. This is made possible by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. However, in order to receive continued coverage, your health plan must be covered by that act. You must be given a period of at least 60 days to choose whether you want to continue with coverage, if you are entitled to it.
  • Self-Employment Assistance. This program gives unemployed people the opportunity to start their own small businesses. It is a voluntary program which is only available in Mississippi, New York, Delaware, Oregon and New Hampshire.
  • Educational Assistance. There are many education courses and training opportunities you can enroll in for free or at a low cost if you receive unemployment benefits. Gaining education and training will help pull you out of the unemployment slump and give you a better opportunity of finding work.

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