Unemployment Benefits

A job loss can be both scary and overwhelming. There are many details to attend to, not the least of which is finding a new job. However, while you search for a new job it is important to determine whether you qualify for unemployment benefits, what those benefits may be and how to obtain them in order to make your unemployed time as secure as possible.
What are Unemployment Benefits?
The Federal - State Unemployment Insurance Program provides benefits to unemployed workers who qualify for benefits under state law. The benefits vary from state to state but are typically calculated as a percentage of the unemployed worker’s income over the past year up to a state maximum amount. The length of benefits also vary from state to state, however, they usually cannot exceed a maximum of 26 weeks as set by federal law. In times of high unemployment, the 26 week time limit may be extended.
Unemployment benefits are intended to provide workers who are temporarily out of work, through no fault of their own, with enough money to meet their basic needs while they continue to look for work and obtain gainful employment. 
Who Qualifies for Unemployment Benefits?
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, a worker must be unemployed through no fault of his or her own. It is up to each state to define what “no fault” means for unemployment purposes. While each state defines “no fault” differently, the term typically does not include people who left their job voluntarily. No fault does usually include people who are fired because of downsizing or company closures. 
Also, a worker must have been employed for a “base period” of time, as defined by state law. That means that the worker must have been employed for a specifically defined amount of time, or more, immediately preceding the unemployment period. Many states define base period as 4 of the 5 calendar quarters immediately preceding the unemployment date.
If the state determines that you qualify for unemployment benefits then you will be required to file regular reports to continue to remain eligible. Those reports are filed weekly or biweekly depending on state requirements. The reports ask the unemployed person whether the person is still unemployed, whether the person has worked at all for the time period being reported on and what his or her earnings have been and, whether the person has refused any job offers. Some states also require unemployed people to register with the state employment office so that the office can provide assistance in finding work.
If unemployment benefits are denied, the applicant has the right to appeal. It is important to note that the unemployment office will contact the applicant’s former employer who can also appeal the granting of benefits to the unemployed person.
How does One File for Unemployment Benefits?
If you find yourself in a situation where you may be eligible for unemployment benefits then you should contact your State Unemployment Agency as soon as possible after you lose your job. Different states have different ways of filing unemployment claims. You might be required to file in person or by regular mail or you may be permitted to file by telephone or via the internet. Your state unemployment agency website should have all of the information that you need to complete your filing requirements.
Unemployment is a stressful time. Unemployment benefits are intended to provide people with the resources they need to remain on their financial feet while seeking a new job. So, if you are you unemployed then you should contact your state unemployment agency in order to determine your own eligibility for these important 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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