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How to Apply For Unemployment Compensation

One of the first things you should do upon losing your job is apply for unemployment compensation. That's because there's a delay of several weeks to a month before you receive your first payment. Unemployment compensation is money paid to people who have lost their job through no fault of their own. It's meant as temporary income to help make ends meet until they find another job.

Unemployment compensation is paid for by a state tax paid by employers. The program was started by the federal government back in 1935 as part of the Social Security Act. Although the program is based on federal law, it's administered by the states. For this reason the specifics of who's eligible for unemployment compensation, when payments start, and how much an unemployed individual receives varies by state.

Who is Eligible for Unemployment Compensation?

Not all jobs are covered by unemployment compensation. Anything related to church or religion is not covered. Non-citizen workers are not covered. Services provided by a student while attending a training institution are not covered. Work performed by elected officials or members of the legislature or judiciary are not covered.

Railroad workers are covered by a separate federal program. People recently discharged from military service are covered by a separate program. Civilian workers for the federal government are covered by a separate program. Benefits from these federal programs are usually paid by the states from federal funds as agents of the federal government.

Sales people who sell or solicit at places other than a permanent retail establishment and whose remuneration is primarily commissions are not eligible for unemployment compensation. But as stated earlier, the rules very by state so don't assume you're not covered without checking at your local unemployment office first.

If you worked in a non-religious non-government job paid by hourly wage or salary, most likely you are eligible for unemployment compensation. To be eligible for Unemployment compensation you also must have earned a certain minimum amount of money during your base period. The base period is usually the first four quarters of the last five quarters at the time your claim is filed. The money you made during your base period also determines and how much money you can collect.

In some states you are not eligible for unemployment compensation if you quit your job or if you were fired. In some states you will still be eligible under these circumstances, but there may be a longer delay before your first payment. The rules very by state so don't assume you're not eligible without checking at your local unemployment office first.

If you lost your job because your employer was forced to make cutbacks, or they closed the office where you worked, or they went out of business, or you lost your job for any other reason that was out of your control, it's very likely that you will be eligible to collect unemployment compensation.

How Long Do Unemployment Compensation Benefits Last?

In most states unemployment compensation payments will last for up to 26 weeks. In periods of very high and long lasting nationwide unemployment, or in individual states with particularly high unemployment, extended benefits may be paid for as long as 13 to 46 additional weeks. The states usually receive funds from the federal government to help pay for the cost of extended benefits. The 2009 recession was so deep that an additional up to 50 weeks of extended unemployment benefits was approved by congress under an economic stimulus bill and unemployment compensation extension act.

How Do I Remain Eligible for Benefits?

To continue receiving unemployment compensation benefits you must be actively seeking work, and you must be ready and able to work during each week that you claim benefits. The amount of enforcement of this rule depends upon the severity of the recession and the individual state. In a severe and deepening recession, few states bother to enforce this rule.

But most times you'll be required to report to your local unemployment office with a list of places where you applied for work and names and contact information of people you contacted for possible work. You may also be required to report to and register at your states employment office so that they may assist you in finding employment. The rules very by state so you'll need to check at your local unemployment office.

How Will Unemployment Compensation Benefits be paid?

The rules very by state, and your benefit is calculated based on what you earned during your base year, but typically you'll be paid about half of what your wage was before you became unemployed. Most states do not mail unemployment checks, you'll be paid either by direct deposit or you'll get a debit card. Benefits will start going into your account after about four weeks after you apply, and you'll be paid benefits biweekly (every other week).

The unemployment compensation debit card works just like a regular bank card, and sometimes when you use a debit card you have to pay fees. For this reason direct deposit is the best way to receive your benefits. To set up direct deposit you'll need your bank account number and routing number, and the bank's address and telephone number.

Information Required to File a Claim

Most states let you file your initial claim online, but you'll probably be required to go the unemployment office to complete the application. To make the process of applying for unemployment compensation go more smoothly here is some information you should gather and have at hand when you apply.

Social Security Number
Home address
Telephone number
If you were on military duty during the last two years, your DD Form 214
W-2s and or pay stubs
Name of your last employer
Mailing address of your last employer
Date you started working for that employer
Date of the last day you worked for the employer
The reason you were let go or left
If you worked for more than one employer in the last 18 months, you'll need the same information for all those employers

The Most Important Things About Unemployment Compensation

The most important thing about unemployment compensation is that you should apply immediately after you lose your job because there's a delay of several weeks to a month before you receive your first payment. Another most important thing is that you should begin your search for new employment immediately because 26 weeks, even 46 weeks with extensions, goes by very quickly, and you could suddenly find yourself without means of support.

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