Unemployment insurance is a joint state and federal program that provides cash stipends to unemployed workers who are actively seeking employment. The program is paid by employer taxes and used to assist workers who lose their jobs or have their hours reduced. Only those workers who meet eligibility requirements can get this benefit. Each state has its own rules and procedures for filing unemployment claims, although they must coordinate with federal laws.
From the moment a claim is filed, the usual processing time is two to three weeks.
What Is Unemployment?
Unemployment insurance programs offered through the U.S. Department of Labor give unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed. The worker must lose his job through no fault of his own and meet other eligibility requirements. Each state has its own unemployment insurance program, but all states must follow specific federal guidelines. The Department of Labor oversees the program and makes sure that states comply with the national law.
Read More: Ways to Collect Unemployment
Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
An unemployed person must meet two primary requirements to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. First, the applicant must meet state-determined thresholds for either earned wages or time worked during a set period. Second, she must be unemployed through no fault of her own to get unemployment benefits. Someone fired for theft, for example, cannot get unemployment benefits.
How to File an Unemployment Claim
An unemployed person files his claim for unemployment benefits in the state in which he worked. It's much easier than it used to be, since one can file claims online or by phone. Each state may have different procedures so look online for your options.
An individual filing an unemployment claim will need to gather information before making the claim. She will usually need:
- Name, address and phone number of the prior employer, as well as the supervisor’s name and title.
- Final date the individual worked and the reason she is no longer employed there.
- Total earnings in the last week worked.
- Work history for the past 18 months, including names and addresses of employers, dates of employment, wages earned, hours worked per workweek, hourly rate of pay, and the reason the applicant is no longer employed there.
- Citizenship or residence status.
- Former federal employees need Notice to Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance, Standard Form 8.
- Former military personnel need DD 214 Member 4 copy.
How Long Does Claim Processing Take?
After submitting an application, the usual wait time for processing is usually between two and three weeks. In some states, the wait is considerably shorter, and you might hear back within a week. In others, there is an imposed waiting period of one week, making the claim processing longer.
What Types of Reports Are Required?
Once an initial claim is approved, the unemployed individual must file regular reports on her employment status in order to remain eligible for benefits. Some states require reports every week while others require two reports a week.
The reports must include any income that she has earned during that period. Note that an unemployed individual is not permitted to refuse most offers of work while on unemployment, and all income earned from salaried or freelance work must be reported.
How Long Does Unemployment Insurance Last?
The typical initial limit for unemployment benefits is 26 weeks. The cash stipend is distributed weekly to the employee in an amount that approximated half of the employee's regular wage. This is funded by state taxes on employers.
Individuals who are not able to find new employment within the 26-week period can become eligible for an extended benefits program. This is not available in all states, but where it is available, the extended benefits give unemployed workers an additional 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment benefits.
- U.S. Department of Labor: State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- Michigan.gov: Filing for Unemployment Benefits
- Nolo: How Long Does It Take to Receive My Unemployment Benefits?
- State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development: Eligibility Issues
- Maine.gov: Unemployment Benefit Payment Options
- California EDD: Filing an Unemployment Claim
- How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance? | U.S. Department of Labor
- DOL: Unemployment Insurance
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.