It’s never easy for you or another family member to lose his or her job. Many families live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to go without a breadwinner. Unemployment benefits can provide much needed income during an employment search. Despite the availability of funds, many people do not cash in on any unemployment benefits. The first step to ensure you do not miss out is finding out if you are eligible to receive aid.
The U.S. Department of Labor lists two criteria you have to meet in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. First, you have to be unemployed through no fault of your own. This means that you lost your job due to a layoff or some other reason outside of your control. If you quit your job or were fired for poor performance, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits.
The second criteria for receiving aid is that you meet your state’s requirement for time worked or wages earned. Because unemployment benefits are handled and distributed on a state level, there are some different rules. For example, you may be required to have lived and worked in the state for 6 months to a year prior to applying. You may also need to have made a certain percentage of your previous year’s salary before you are eligible.
Most states require that you be actively looking for employment in order to receive benefits. You generally have to keep track of businesses that you have applied to or interviewed at and turn that information into your local unemployment office. Some states offer allowances for periods of not working if you are enrolled and successfully completing employment-related training or classes.
Note: If you are a contract employee, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits as no unemployment taxes were paid on your behalf.
Filing a Claim
You should file an unemployment claim as soon as possible after losing your job. It takes time to complete application requirements, verify your information, set your benefit amount, and get your first check. The sooner you start the process, the sooner you will get financial relief.
Before filing a claim, get organized. Make sure you have accurate dates, addresses, etc at hand to put on your claim application. Then contact your local unemployment office or apply online.
If you lived and worked in tow separate sates, you can choose which state you want to file in. Do your research and make sure you apply in the state that provides you the most in funding.
Claims are generally denied for failure to provide accurate information or because you do not meet a specific eligibility requirement. You will be notified about the outcome of your claim. You have the right to an appeal if your claim is denied, but keep in mind, you have a limited window in which to file.
Unemployment benefits are intended to replace some of your lost wages. The amount you will receive in unemployment benefits each week depends on what you previously made. All states have a cap on the total weekly benefit amount available. Earning income from part-time work could reduce the amount you receive.
Keeping Your Benefits
While collecting unemployment benefits, you will be required to file weekly or biweekly reports detailing your job hunting efforts, any job offers, whether you have income from part time work, and any times you have refused work. Your state may also require you to attend in-person meetings or training sessions to keep your competitive and increase your job prospects.
Unemployment benefits are not available forever. States set limits on the length of time you can continue to collect unemployment benefits. If you work part time for a period of time such that do not need to receive unemployment benefits to pay your bills, that time is added back on to your available collection period. You may be eligible for extended benefits or emergency benefits after your time runs out.
Finding a new job is no easy task. Many workers find themselves unemployed for a year or more. Filing an unemployment insurance claim could ease the financial strain on you and your family.
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