How to Apply For Unemployment Compensation
By Stephen Bucaro
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.