Everything You Need to Know About Unemployment Insurance


Most of us don't think about the possibility of losing our jobs at a moment's notice. However, that is exactly what happens to thousands of people every day across the United States. (See also: What You Need to Survive a Job Loss)

If the unthinkable happens to you, it is important to know where to turn for unemployment help. From locating the correct agency to applying for financial assistance to receiving your funds, read on to discover everything you need to know about unemployment.

Who to Contact

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) oversees unemployment assistance for the entire country. Each state has an agency that determines eligibility, administers compensation, and offers training to get displaced employees back into the workforce.

Each state calls the agency something different. To find the agency for your state, use this locator map from the DOL. This map will link you up with where to file, check on, and answer questions about your unemployment claim.

Determine Eligibility

Unemployment compensation is provided to employees who have lost their jobs due to something outside of their control. This means the employee could not quit their job without a serious reason (such as a medical condition, harassment at the workplace, or workplace violence) and could not be fired for something they did on the job, like stealing from their employer. Each state determines guidelines for eligibility. Contact your state agency for those rules and regulations.

Everyone who files for unemployment must have been employed for a certain length of time prior to filing and earned a certain amount of money. For example, in the state of Colorado, the employee must have earned at least $2,500 during a period of 12 months prior to filing a claim.

Another portion of the eligibility for unemployment compensation is your ability and desire to find future employment. You must be actively seeking employment or receiving training towards future employment if financial compensation is going to be received. (See also: Job Hunting Tips for the Recently Fired)

Filing a Claim

You can begin the application process for unemployment immediately after the loss of your job. In some states, you can file online, over the phone, or by using a mobile app. When you do file, be sure to have information about your employer and your employment history available. You will be asked questions about who your employer was as well as the address and phone number for them. You will need to provide dates for when your employment began and when it ended. Also, be prepared to provide information about your income while you were employed.

After filing your claim, it can take two or three weeks before payment is received. Some states require a waiting period of one week before money is issued.

Remaining Eligible

In order to remain eligible for unemployment, you must continue to file the status of your claim with the agency. Every state has set this up differently. You may need to provide an update every week or two weeks. You will be required to answer questions about the process you are going through to find new employment. Some states may require lists of employers who have your resume, some may require you to register with employment agencies, and some may require you to come into their office a certain number of hours each week to conduct your job search.

To remain eligible, it is important that you update your status on the day that it is required. Failing to do so can mean a disruption or cancellation of your benefits. (See also: Thriving in Long-Term Unemployment)

Receiving Benefits

Unemployment benefits can be financial payments, insurance, and job training. Each state will determine which you need. If your spouse has insurance that is available to you, then the state will not provide you with unemployment insurance. If you are already highly-skilled, job training may not be available but other resources like resume building and interviewing skills can be an option. (See also: This Interview Technique Will Get You Hired)

Financial benefits can be in the form of a check, but most states have moved to automatic deposits into a state-controlled debit account. The amount is based on a percentage of your previous year's income and can not go over the state's maximum. Compensation is available for a maximum of 26 weeks unless it is during a time of high unemployment, in which case extended benefits are available. Money received is considered taxable income and will need to be claimed on your yearly income taxes.

If you have filed a claim for unemployment benefits and were denied, you do have the right to file an appeal. Appeals can be filed with the same agency that you filed your initial claim with and should be done as soon as possible.

Whether you are anticipating a layoff months in advance or you find yourself without a job very suddenly, the process of applying for unemployment benefits can feel daunting. However, filing a claim need not be a painful experience. Arm yourself with all the information on your employment and these tips beforehand to ensure the process is as smooth as possible.

Have you ever made a claim for unemployment benefits? What was the process like for you?

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