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Unemployment Benefits

A job loss can be both scary and overwhelming. However, while you search for a new job, it is important to determine whether you qualify for unemployment benefits, which can provide a crucial financial lifeline.

What are Unemployment Benefits?

The unemployment insurance program provides benefits to unemployed workers who qualify for benefits under their state's 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, although there is usually a maximum amount that you can earn.

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.

Who Qualifies for Unemployment Benefits?

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must be unemployed through no fault of your own. It is up to each state to define what “no fault" means, but the term typically does not include people who left their job voluntarily or were fired "for cause," such as negligence or illegal activity.

No fault usually includes people who lose their jobs because of downsizing or company closures. Also, a worker must have been employed for a specifically defined amount of time. Many states define that period as approximately a year of employment.

If the state determines that you qualify for unemployment benefits then you will be required to file regular reports to continue to remain eligible. The reports will likely ask whether you are still unemployed, whether you've worked at all and what you earned (such as freelance work or odd jobs), whether you 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.

How Do You 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's unemployment agency as soon as possible after you lose your job. Your state unemployment agency website should have all of the information that you need to complete your filing requirements.

It is important to note that the unemployment office will contact your former employer, who can also appeal the granting of benefits. However, if you were fired for cause, and your employer chooses not to contest your application for benefits, you may still be able to receive them.

When Can Unemployment Benefits 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 a job offer, your benefits may end.

Second, the state may stop paying your unemployment benefits if you have received the maximum number of weeks of benefits that the law allows.

Get Help from an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

Have you been discriminated against by a potential or current employer -- as a job applicant or current employee? To best protect your legal rights you should discuss your situation with an employment lawyer. Meet with a local employment attorney sooner rather than later to protect your rights.

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