When Can I Get Unemployment Benefits?
For those in the workforce, Unemployment Insurance provides a safety net in case of job loss. But not everyone who loses a job is eligible for unemployment benefit. Certain criteria must be met. These criteria differ from state to state, but many similarities exist.
Most of those who qualify for unemployment benefits have lost their jobs. In order to qualify, they must have been terminated through no fault of their own. Being laid off is one example of involuntary termination, but it’s not the only one. Employees who were fired without reasonable cause may also be eligible.
In some cases, those who voluntarily quit a job may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The worker must have left with “good cause,” and the definition of good cause varies from state to state. In general, employees must have quit due to some sort of unfavorable working condition, such as significantly reduced hours or pay, an unsafe work environment or a change in duties that is at odds with moral or religious beliefs.
Some states allow those who have had their working hours reduced to stay at their jobs and collect partial unemployment payments. In such cases, the employer usually initiates the unemployment claim. Your state unemployment office can provide details about eligibility.
In addition to these requirements, claimants must meet their states’ requirements for time worked and/or wages earned during a specified period of time prior to unemployment. Money earned during this “base period” is also used to determine the amount of benefits the claimant is entitled to.
Maintaining Your Eligibility
When you first file for unemployment benefits, the state will determine whether or not you are eligible. Even if they find that you are eligible, your former employer can contest the claim. If this happens, you are entitled to a hearing to state your case. If you want to continue to receive unemployment benefit, you must attend the hearing and prove that you are in fact eligible.
Those who are receiving unemployment benefits must be ready, willing and able to work. States usually require those collecting unemployment benefits to register with the State Employment Service. They must actively look for jobs and document their job search and they must accept reasonable offers of employment. In some cases, however, those receiving unemployment benefits may attend school full time instead of looking for a job.
In order to continue receiving benefits, you must file claims every week or two weeks, depending on your state’s requirements. This may usually be done online or by phone. Claimants must report earnings, job offers and refusals. Claimants must also report to the unemployment office for interviews as requested.
Filing for unemployment benefits can be intimidating. But it’s important to do so as soon as possible after separation from employment. Benefits may be delayed for up to two weeks even if you are eligible, so the sooner you file, the better.