Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are monetary benefits, also known as unemployment insurance (UI).

The UI program exists throughout the United States. It is a program operated by state agencies and overseen at the federal level. The purpose of the program is to create a safety net to prevent job loss from causing financial hardship. Unemployment benefits can assist you when you lose your job by providing you with funds to help you pay your monthly bills. That way, you will have time to seek new employment with reduced financial stress.

Eligibility Requirements for Unemployment Benefits

The UI program exists in every state. However, there are some program variations established by the governing agencies in each state. Therefore, you must familiarize yourself with regulations in your state to verify your ability to qualify for UI benefits. Despite those small variations, many aspects of collecting unemployment benefits are universal in all U.S. states. Those aspects of collecting unemployment benefits are described below.

Typically, to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in your state, your own intentional actions must not have caused your termination. You can only collect benefits if your job loss is legally considered not your fault. If you are fired for actions that were your fault, it is known as being terminated for cause. Examples of terminations for cause that could negate your eligibility for UI benefit collection include:

  • Violating a company policy or breaching a contract.
  • Disclosing confidential information about the company to third parties.
  • Performing any actions that can be construed as dishonest, such as stealing or lying.
  • Breaking the law in any way.
  • Drinking alcohol or consuming other illicit substances during work hours.

Some states have more lenient regulations than others regarding such termination cases. Therefore, you may still be eligible for benefits, even if you are terminated for cause. Additionally, not all cases of termination are considered termination for cause. For example, if you lose your job due to layoffs within your company, you can still collect unemployment benefits, provided you meet other eligibility requirements. If you were wrongfully terminated, such as due to discrimination, you may also retain your UI benefit eligibility.

Other eligibility requirements you must meet are related to earnings and work requirements. The benefits you can collect from UI must be earned during your employment. Therefore, you must have a minimum amount of earnings during the time period used to calculate eligibility in your state. This period is known as the ‘base period,’ and often consists of four calendar quarters. Those quarters are likely to be the first four of the five quarters completed before the quarter in which you file your claim. Collecting UI benefits also requires you to be willing and physically able to work.

Applying for Unemployment Benefits

The procedure you must use to apply for unemployment benefits while handling a job termination will be dictated by your work history. For example, if your previous job was not in your current state of residence, you must file a claim in the state where you were employed. However, the unemployment insurance agency in your state can still help you make your claim. Available claim methods provided by each state differ. Some common methods include:

  • Filing in person, at a state unemployment agency office.
  • Calling in your claim on the telephone.
  • Filing your claim online, using a registration system maintained by the state.

When filing your claim for unemployment benefits, you must provide detailed information about yourself and your work history. Inaccuracy or omission of important information may make your claim take longer to process. Be prepared to provide:

  • Proof of identification, such as your Social Security Number.
  • Names and addresses of your former employers.
  • Dates of employment at each company listed.

Filing your unemployment benefits claim as quickly as possible after a job loss is essential. Your state may have a waiting period of one week before you can collect benefits. It can also take up to three weeks for claims to be processed. If your claim is initially denied, and you appeal the decision, your wait for benefits will be even longer.

Appealing Unemployment Benefit Denial

An unemployment benefit appeal may be filed by your employer, if your claim is approved. You may also file an appeal if the claim is denied. Therefore, if you have any doubts regarding your eligibility for benefits, you must prepare for the possibility of having to undergo the appeal process. To file an appeal of a UI denial, you must follow procedures outlined by the unemployment agency in the state where you are trying to collect benefits. Contact the state unemployment agency or Department of Labor office to find out about:

  • How long you have to file an appeal.
  • What information you must provide to file the appeal.
  • How the appeal hearing process works in your state.

You will have several rights during the appeal process, regardless of the state in which the claim is being made. For example, you will have the right to legal representation during all appeal hearings. You can also continue filing UI benefit claims during the appeal process. Additionally, you can ask witnesses to provide testimony to support your claim of UI eligibility.

Receiving Unemployment Benefits

If your unemployment benefits claim is approved, you can collect benefits each week until your claim expires. The maximum length of a standard unemployment claim varies in each state, but it is typically 26 weeks. When your claim period is over, if you are still unemployed, you may qualify for extended benefits. However, the state will only activate an extended benefits period if the statewide unemployment rate is high.

Your unemployment benefits will not be provided to you automatically each week. Instead, you must call to renew your claim, according to the schedule set by the state. The schedule will typically require weekly claim renewal. However, depending on the law in the state in question, renewal may be required every two weeks. Each time you request a weekly or bi-weekly claim renewal, you must list information regarding the previous one or two-week claim period. The information you must list includes:

State Employment Service registration may also be required in your filing state. Additionally, the state may require you to attend American Job Center or Unemployment Claims Office meetings. If your filing state has such laws, you must comply with them. Failure to do so will result in your unemployment benefits claim being canceled.

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