The Deadline to File Unemployment

With all the stress that results from a termination and the scramble to find a way to pay bills, the unemployed sometimes forget a critical piece of information: The deadline to file unemployment. When you file for unemployment can affect the amount of benefits you receive, and sometimes eliminate them all together.

State Benefits

States have no specific cutoff date for filing for unemployment benefits. Instead, unemployment agencies have a formula they use to determine your benefits. This usually is an average of earnings over a certain number of months before filing for unemployment. Thus, if you wait several months, you may have no earnings that qualify you for unemployment benefits.

Federal Deadline

The federal government normally does not offer unemployment benefits, only during periods of high unemployment across the country and when the states cannot afford to extend benefits. Thus, in some years you cannot even file for federal extension benefits. In 2010, Congress authorized federal unemployment benefits. If you want the maximum amount of federal unemployment benefits, you must file a claim by Dec. 25, 2011, and by Jan. 1, 2012, for all other claims. Dates change for future extensions of federal benefits.

Other Deadlines

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sometimes declares areas of the country a disaster area. Usually, FEMA offers unemployment benefits for workers affected by these disasters. Because these disasters are unexpected and intermittent, the agency sets its own deadlines and requirements. Check with your state's unemployment division to find out about disaster unemployment benefit deadlines.


If you lose your job, you should apply for unemployment assistance as soon as possible; the unemployment application can take a week or longer to process. Also, if you wait several months to file unemployment, you lose benefits from those months of no work, even if you immediately find work. Should the unemployment agency deny your application, you can always appeal the decision later.

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