When a person who is receiving unemployment benefits finds a job, they may continue to receive money through their state UI agency. This depends on whether they are full-time or part-time workers and if they've gone back to work permanently or temporarily. It is up to the claimant to let their state know their employment status each week and whether they are available for employment. Failing to do so may delay payment of benefits or stop them entirely and may require that the claimant repay the money.
Understanding Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Unemployment benefits allow workers who have lost employment to receive some money while looking for work. The applicant must have lost their job through no fault of their own. This means that their employer saw a reduction in force, experienced layoffs or didn't have enough work to keep the employee. There is generally no UI eligibility for those who quit or experienced firing, but some good cause exceptions do exist in both instances, such as leaving a job due to sexual harassment or following a spouse to another location too far from the job site. A state unemployment agency weighs all the circumstances of an applicant's claim to determine how much their weekly benefit amount will be and how many weeks they can receive them.
When someone applies for UI, the state unemployment agency assesses their eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits by looking at a certain base period in their recent job history, usually the first four of five completed calendar quarters the client worked before they applied. As this period doesn't count the months right before an applicant files a claim, some states use an alternative base period. This is usually the claimant's last four quarters of employment. States also require that applicants make a certain amount of money, either in dollars or in earnings from their highest quarter.
Certifying Weekly Benefits
In every state, claimants certify or file for UI benefits every week or two. They usually do this online, but in most instances, certification can also occur by telephone or standard mail. Claimants should file for UI in the state they worked. If they worked in multiple states, they should contact the agency where they reside to get information on how to file their claim.
When it's time to certify, the agency will ask the claimant several questions, most notably, if they worked during the week of their claim, how many hours they worked and how much money they earned. If they worked full time or earned too much, they won't get benefits for that week. If they worked part-time hours, they might get some benefits, but not as much as they would typically get had they not worked at all. Claimants should make sure all the information they provide is complete and accurate; doing otherwise can delay the claim or stop it altogether.
Canceling UI Before the First Payment
Workers who applied for unemployment insurance, but secured a job before the state processed their claim, should immediately cancel it – failing to do so may not only require the claimant to repay benefit payments, but can also lead to fraud charges. In this instance, the claimant should contact their UI office by phone or email, depending on the processes of their state agency.
If those payments can't be stopped in time, claimants should continue trying to contact the agency and not spend any money they receive. Whatever funds they received should be returned as soon as possible. According to Unemployment Claims Info, their state agency will give the claimant direction on how to repay the benefits.
Canceling Benefits Through Certification
If a claimant has already started certifying but has gone back to full-time work and no longer needs benefits, they can request that the state cease payments. California, for example, has a box for an applicant to check while certifying that lets the Employment Development Department (EDD) know they no longer need the money. However, some states don't ask claimants to do anything but stop certifying altogether. How the process works depends on the state the claimant's state. Claimants who want to stop their payments should contact their UI department for further information.
Failing to stop certifying claims due to getting a new job can also lead to charges of fraud. Not only will the claimant have to pay back the money they've received, but they may face criminal penalties, such as fines or jail time. In some instances, they may also lose the ability to file future UI claims.
Looking for Work and Collecting Benefits
Workers certifying for UI benefits must actively search for work each week and report their work search results to their state unemployment office. When someone applies for unemployment, agencies usually require the claimant to create an account on a state-run job site. Here, claimants post résumés for employers to see. This is crucial in getting a claim approved in most states.
In California, for example, claimants must register with CalJOBS and post their résumé within 21 days of receiving approval for their claim. This shows they're available and willing to work should a job arise. If they do not do this, the state may deny their claim.
Job Search and COVID-19
In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic caused millions of people to lose their jobs overnight. Their UI claims overloaded state agencies, and Congress stepped in to provide more funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. This federal law extended the number of weeks that a claimant could receive UI benefits and also gave benefits to people who wouldn't usually be eligible, such as independent contractors and the self-employed, through its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The CARES Act ended in March 2021, but the benefits and programs continue through the American Rescue Plan until September 2021, according to CNBC.
During this time, several states waived the requirement for claimants to report their job searches, as many businesses have yet to reopen. However, claimants must still notify the state of their availability to continue receiving claims. When the job search requirement returns, claimants should check with their local agencies for further information.
- Ca.gov: CalJobs
- California Employment Development Department: Top 10 Things You Should Know . . . About the Unemployment Insurance System When Filing Your Claim
- CNBC: Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package—Here’s What It Includes for Unemployment
- Unemployment Claims Info: Unemployment Benefits: What to Do When You Become Employed Again
- NOLO: Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period
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.