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The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program is overseen by the Department of Labor in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. UI benefits are reserved for qualifying workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own and who meet additional eligibility requirements. With the Unemployment Insurance assistance program, benefits are provided for a maximum period of time and, in some cases, an extension may be available during periods of heightened statewide unemployment.

If you would like to apply for unemployment, it is worth taking the time to first learn more about the program, including the eligibility requirements that you must meet initially and requirements that you must meet while you are receiving benefits.

What is unemployment insurance?

The Unemployment Insurance program offers benefits to eligible workers that are currently unemployed through no fault of their own. Whether or not a worker is considered “at fault” as well as benefit amounts, how long benefits are available and eligibility requirements are determined under State laws in the State in which the unemployed worker lives.

Unemployment benefits are meant as a temporary means of financial assistance to qualifying workers. In some cases, extensions can be applied for participants to receive benefits for longer than the maximum period of time. This can most commonly occur when a state is experiencing a higher than normal unemployment rate and has therefore authorized extended benefits.

Unemployment Insurance is paid for by employers and it is unlawful for an employer to ever attempt to have an employee pay a portion of the insurance. Insurance benefits are generally only available to workers that are considered employees and very rarely available to contractors and other workers who are considered self-employed.

Unemployment Insurance programs encourage workers to file an unemployment claim as soon as possible after becoming unemployed. The method in which a claim can be submitted varies between states, but many states allow claims to be submitted by phone or over the internet. When filing an initial claim, applicants must provide professional information, including the address and dates of former periods of employment. Generally, it can take up to two to three weeks after filing an initial claim to receive benefits. However, this process can be delayed due to incorrect information or a dispute with a former employer.

How to Qualify for Unemployment

In order to be eligible for UI benefits, you must be unemployed through no fault of your own. This means that you cannot voluntarily have quit your job, though there are a few extreme exceptions to this rule, such as when asked to perform an illegal task by your employer.

You must also apply for unemployment within a set period of time following the loss of employment in order to qualify for benefits. Therefore, it is important to submit an application as soon as possible.

Learn About Requirements for Continued Unemployment Benefits

After you begin to receive unemployment benefits, you must continue to file claims weekly or biweekly (depending on the state) in order to continue to receive benefits. Additionally, you must satisfy all of your state’s continued eligibility requirements. Generally, these requirements will require you to apply for a certain amount of jobs per week. In some states, you may also be required to report to your local Unemployment Insurance Claims Office for an interview, work registration or job training.

While receiving UI benefits, you may be required to be registered to work with the State Employment Service. The State Employment Service can assist you in finding work by referring you to job openings within your area as well as provide referrals to various training programs. In many states, resume building assistance, job counseling and other benefits are also available.

How to Apply for Unemployment Compensation

You can apply for unemployment benefits by contacting your state Unemployment Insurance Agency. As stated previously, you are strongly encouraged to contact this agency and file your initial claim as soon as possible following an event that led to your employment. Should you wait to file a claim, your benefits could be delayed, denied or you may not receive back pay for the period of time that you did not submit your claim.

When is an unemployment extension available?

In some cases, your state unemployment agency may be able to provide an extension on the maximum period of time that you can receive benefits within a benefit year. The basic extended benefits program provides qualifying workers up to 13 additional weeks of benefits during periods of time where a state is experiencing high unemployment rates. Additionally, some states have established voluntary programs to pay up to 7 additional weeks of extended benefits during periods of extremely high unemployment rates.

If you are interested in an unemployment extension, you must contact your state agency in order to determine if an extension may be available to you. If it is not, you will not be able to extend your maximum benefit period.

How much does unemployment pay?

UI benefit amounts are based upon a percentage of your earnings over the last 52-week period. Benefits cannot exceed the maximum benefit amount, as determined by the state that you live within. In most states, benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks, unless an extension is available.

If you are receiving unemployment benefits, it is also important to know that these benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported when you file your Federal income tax return. When submitting your initial claim for benefits, your State agency will provide you with the option of having taxes withheld from your benefits.

What to Do When Denied Unemployment

Unemployment Insurance benefits can be denied for a number of reasons, but benefits are most commonly denied when an employee was at fault for a termination or if the employee voluntarily quit his or her job.

You have the right to file an unemployment denial appeal after receiving a notice that you were denied benefits. You must file for an appeal within a set period of time in order to go through the appeal process. This set period of time varies between states, but will be included in your determination notice.

Learn How To Apply For
Unemployment Benefits
With Our Guide