Losing a job isn’t easy. It can be a scary and uncertain time between one job and the next. Fortunately, unemployment benefits are available as a safety net to help bridge that gap. Knowing how to file for these benefits makes the process easier to manage.
Here’s what you need to know.
Are You Eligible?
The U.S. Department of Labor governs unemployment insurance, but providing those benefits is left up to the states. Because of this, the rules of eligibility vary from state to state. You can find the exact rules for your state at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Career One Stop website.
In most cases, you must have earned a certain amount in the 12 to 24 consecutive months before your job ended. You’ll have to show that you are actively seeking new employment when you apply for and are receiving unemployment benefits, and you can only claim unemployment if you lose your job. People who quit their jobs cannot collect unemployment.
How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits
The application process can also vary from state to state. You’ll need to file a claim with the unemployment office in the state where you worked. Some states allow applications to be submitted online or by phone. Others may want you to come to the office and file for benefits face-to-face.
If you worked in more than one state, you’ll need to file for unemployment benefits in each one individually. The unemployment agency in your state of residence can usually help you find information about how to apply in other states.
Be ready to supply the addresses of your employers and the specific dates you worked. The information should be accurate and complete to get your benefits started quickly. It usually takes two or three weeks to get your first unemployment check, so it’s a good idea to complete your application as soon as possible.
How much will you get?
While the amounts may differ slightly in each state, the payment will be a percentage of your earnings over the year before you file for benefits. The maximum amount you can receive is also different from state to state. The average length of time you can claim benefits is 26 weeks.
No matter which state, the amount you bring in from unemployment will be less than your previous work income, so you’ll want to budget accordingly. If you carry a large amount of debt, getting a debt consolidation loan could help lower your monthly payments while finding a new job.
Preserving Your Eligibility
Most states have further requirements to maintain eligibility for unemployment. You may need to file a document every couple of weeks to prove you’re still looking for a job. If you make any extra side money, you may be required to share that information. They’ll also want to know about any employment offers you may have turned down.
You might be required to come into the unemployment office for an eligibility interview. Don’t miss these appointments. If you do, you could lose your benefits entirely.
Unemployment Benefits at a Glance
Unemployment benefits can help you make ends meet while you look for a new job. Pay careful attention to the requirements of your state’s unemployment office. Learning about and adhering to their specific regulations will help the process go as smoothly as possible.