There is no age limit for collecting unemployment insurance (UI) benefits; even senior citizens can collect them, provided they meet the requirements of their state employment agencies. However, in some states, there may be a reduction in unemployment insurance benefits for those who collect Social Security. According to Sapling, anyone over 62 who loses their job through no fault of their own can receive both UI and Social Security payments at the same time.
Social Security and UI Benefits
According to AARP, Social Security benefits do not count for UI benefits as wages in the program’s annual earnings limits. In the past, most states would lower UI benefit payments if a claimant received Social Security at the same time they received jobless benefits, but most of them have discontinued this practice. In the early 2000s, the District of Columbia and twenty states began repealing the Social Security offset laws that were in place.
However, some states, like Minnesota, still have partial offset laws. In this instance, residents who draw from both programs may see a reduction in their UI benefit amounts of up to half of what they would normally get if they weren't collecting Social Security payments. Other types of retirement benefits, such as a 401(k) plan or a pension, can also cause a reduction in UI benefits. Senior UI applicants should check with their state agency for information on its earned income rules.
UI Benefits and Eligibility Requirements
Anyone who has lost work through no fault of their own – layoffs, a reduction in force or lack of work – are generally eligible for UI benefits, as long as they meet a state’s wage requirements for its base period, usually the first four of five completed quarters the claimant worked before they applied. Some states have an alternative base period, which covers the most recent, complete four calendar quarters before claiming benefits if the applicant does not meet the standard base period requirements.
States also require that the applicant be physically able and available to work should another job come along. They must also actively look for work while receiving unemployment benefits, and there is usually a requirement that they register with a state’s job portal and record their job search each week when certifying. In 2020 and early 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic, most states waived the work search reporting requirement, but applicants must still declare their availability for work when filing a claim.
Those who have left a job by quitting or being fired don’t usually receive benefits unless they had good cause for doing so. A state’s UI department takes all of the circumstances into consideration when assessing the eligibility of an applicant and calculating their benefit amount and number of payment weeks.
Applying and Certifying UI Benefits
Seniors who want to collect unemployment benefits apply and certify for them just like everyone else. They must provide their state agency with the contact information of their last employer, personal contact information and Social Security number. After the state approves their claim, they must report their earnings, if any. This may include Social Security payments depending on the state. Some states, like California, do not require reporting Social Security retirement benefits because it does not deduct them from UI benefits.
Claimants must file their claims promptly to continue receiving benefits and can certify online, by phone or by mail. Those who work can still receive benefits if their part-time wages do not meet the threshold of their weekly unemployment compensation. If, however, they worked full time during that week, and their wages surpass their weekly earnings, they will not receive UI benefits during that time.
Also, according to CNBC, applicants over 65 have up to eight months to apply for Medicare after losing their workplace health insurance as long as they have a 10-year work history. Medicare Part A covers basic health needs, like hospital stays, hospice and skilled nursing services.
- CNBC: Here’s How to Get Medicare Coverage if You’re 65 or Older and Lose Your Job
- NOLO: Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period
- AARP: Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits and Social Security at the Same Time?
- California Employment Development Department: California's Programs for the Unemployed
- Sapling: Can Senior Citizens Claim Unemployment?
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.