How to Collect Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are administered by the State Department of Labor. Filing for unemployment is not a difficult process, but it is necessary to understand if you qualify first.

Who Qualifies for Unemployment?

The main criterion for receiving unemployment is you have lost your job, through no fault of your own. This may occur due to an employer layoff, a loss of a contract or other issues. If you have been involved in a performance-related layoff or firing, then you will not qualify. It is also important that you are able to continue working and seeking other employment. You cannot collect unemployment unless you are looking for another job, and the department will check up to ensure you are doing so. If your hours have been cut back but you are still employed, you may be eligible for partial benefits through the department.

Who Pays for Unemployment?

The unemployment system was created as part of the Social Security Act. It is administered partially by the state and partially by the federal government. The funds required for unemployment programs are provided by your employer. Your employer is taxed 6.2% of the first $7,000 you earn in salary, based on 2009 tax schedules. This tax goes toward an unemployment fund, and you receive your payout from this fund if you are laid off. Employers will not continue to pay toward the fund once you have earned more than $7,000 or once you are no longer working for them.

How Long and How Much do I Get?

There is no direct formula to determine your unemployment benefits. You will not find out until you officially apply what you will ultimately receive. However, the amount you receive is partially based on your previous salary as well as the cost of living in your area. You will receive a check each week that is meant to cover your basic expenses, including rent or mortgage, food and utilities. If you have other outstanding debts, like student loans, you may need to file for deferment and let your state know about the expense.

Your state will determine how long your benefits last, but they generally expire after 26 weeks. Tough job markets may lead to an extension of unemployment benefits. You may continue to apply for extensions if you are in great need, but this is only a temporary program and will thus expire at some point.

How do I Apply?

You can apply online with the State Department of Labor. Online applications are easy to use and often expedite the process. You should be aware it can take weeks for your application to be approved before you know what you will receive. It may take more weeks before you actually receive a check. The payment will not be retroactive, so you must be able to cover for those weeks of missed pay.

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