Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

It can be terrifying to lose your job. With all, or a significant portion, of your income gone you may wonder how you are going to remain in your home and how you are going to pay your bills. State unemployment insurance might protect you and temporarily provide you with a percentage of your income if you meet certain eligibility requirements. 
If you are found eligible for unemployment insurance then you will receive a percentage of the amount that you earned over the previous 52 weeks, up to the state maximum. Generally, unemployment insurance is available for a maximum of 26 weeks. However, in times of high employment that may be extended by the federal government. Some states also offer extensions in certain circumstances.
Am I Eligible for Unemployment Insurance?
Unemployment insurance is available in all states in accordance with the federal unemployment insurance program. However, each state has the autonomy to make its own rules regarding eligibility and administer the program in accordance with state law. Generally, in order to be eligible for unemployment compensation you must:
·         Have lost your job through no fault of your own;
·         Have worked for a “base period” as that term is defined as state law. Most states require that you have worked for 4 out of the 5 quarters prior to filing your unemployment insurance claim;
·         Have earned at least a certain amount of wages during the base period;
·         Be physically able to work; and
·         Be actively looking for work and ready and able to accept offers of employment.  
These requirements must be met before a person is found initially eligible for unemployment. Most states require those who are found eligible for unemployment to recertify their eligibility by signing weekly or biweekly statements of eligibility before receiving unemployment compensation for that period. This is required because unemployment insurance is designed to only provide temporary relief to people who are legitimately out of work and looking for jobs.
Can I Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Insurance?
You have the right to appeal a denial of unemployment insurance benefits. Your appeal must be filed within the time limits required by your state law. This is usually a matter of days or weeks, therefore, you should file your appeal quickly so as not to forego your right of appeal. In some cases your appeal will be handled over the phone and in other cases a hearing will be scheduled with an Administrative Law Judge. 
When Can Employment Legally End?
Your unemployment benefits can legally end in one of two ways. First, the state may stop paying your unemployment benefits if you fail to meet any of the eligibility requirements described above. Therefore, if you refuse an offer of employment your benefits may end. Second, the state may stop paying your unemployment benefits if you have received the maximum number of weeks of unemployment that is allowable under the law.
Unemployment will not pay you your full salary but it will pay you a percentage of your previous earnings while you look for another job. Thus, it is an important benefit and you should understand when you are eligible for benefits.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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