For those who have recently lost a job, unemployment benefits are often a critical lifeline to preventing bankruptcy or foreclosure. This government insurance program provides an income, though it's usually much more limited than what an employee received from his employer. Knowing how much one can expect from unemployment insurance and how often helps individuals to plan a responsible budget until they find a new job.
Unemployment insurance is a temporary financial benefit provided to qualifying workers who have recently become unemployed as a result of a lay-off. To file for unemployment, a worker must have been at his job for a sustained amount of time before being laid off, usually about six months, though this qualification varies by state. In addition, workers must have earned a certain level of wages, averaging $1,734 nationally as of May 2011, though this, too, varies by state.
Read More: Ways to Collect Unemployment
Filing for Unemployment
Unemployment isn't paid until after a worker has filed with his state government for jobless benefits. Unemployment benefits are sometimes retroactive -- they pay a prescribed benefit for each day a worker was without work, beginning the first day after he quits receiving wages from his former employer. Many states will start unemployment benefits on the day they receive the jobless claim, which means that those who lose their job should file for benefits immediately in order to receive assistance as soon as possible.
Frequency of Benefits
Unemployment benefits are usually paid weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the state law where they're claimed. The benefits payment may take up to three weeks to process, but as long as the job seeker filed a claim for each of his first three weeks, he should still get paid the full benefit for that time. To continue to receive unemployment, a job-seeker must file each week, though this process usually just involves verifying to the state agency that he is still unemployed. Many states offer hotlines or online services to help determine payment status while it is pending.
Duration of Benefits
As long as a claimant continues to file for unemployment, he will continue to receive benefits until the maximum is reached. He will be required to report to the state agency about his job-seeking activities and continue to actively look for a job as long as they're filing for assistance. In most cases, the maximum length of benefits is 26 weeks. In times of high unemployment, benefits may be extended, though benefits beyond the first 26 weeks usually pay progressively less.
- Almanac of Policy Issues; Unemployment Compensation; 2000
- Ohio Department of Job & Family Services; Getting Payments; 2011
- Illinois Department of Employment Security; What Every Worker Should Know About Unemployment Insurance; 2008
- New York Department of Labor; Before You Apply For Unemployment: Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S. Department of Labor; State Unemployment Insurance Benefits; 2010
- California Employment Development Department; FAQ -- Contacting UI; 2008
Matt Petryni has been writing since 2007. He was the environmental issues columnist at the "Oregon Daily Emerald" and has experience in environmental and land-use planning. Petryni holds a Bachelor of Science of planning, public policy and management from the University of Oregon.