Four Key Questions When Filing For Unemployment Benefits by Carl Stevens

Can I apply? Am I eligible? What are my state's policies? There is often confusion about filing for unemployment benefits. Many people ask themselves the countless questions, and struggle to find the answers. Regardless of which state you live in, there are four key questions you must answer as you go about filing for unemployment benefits:

1. How did you become unemployed? In general you are only eligible to receive unemployment compensation if you were laid off through no fault of your own. Examples include layoffs related to a slow economy, a division or office being shut down, or an individual layoff for nearly any other reason. If you were fired (meaning that you were let go because you violated a company policy) or quit, you are generally not able to receive benefits. There are many exceptions, however. If you state that you were fired or quit, you will be asked to describe the circumstances. Your answers to these questions will play an important role in determining whether or not you will be able to collect unemployment benefits.

2. Did you work for a long enough period of time during your Base Period? Each state has what they refer to as a base period, which refers to the period of time prior to your filing for unemployment benefits. In most states, the Base Period is the five previous calendar quarters. You are asked to show that you were employed for a minimum period of time during this time. You are not required to have worked for the same employer the whole time, nor are you required to have been employed during the entire period.

3. Did you earn enough income during your Base Period? In addition to demonstrating that you worked for a certain amount of time during your Base Period, your state will require that you show that you earned a minimum amount of income during the base period. Like the previous requirement, this test helps determine your level of employment prior to your application.

Are you actively looking for work? The final key requirement to determine your eligibility when filing for unemployment benefits is to show that you are seeking a new job. If you decide to go back to school, take an extended vacation, or work as an independent contractor, you will not be considered eligible. One other reminder: the requirement that you are actively looking for work is an "ongoing requirement," meaning that you will need to continue to update your status in order to continue receiving benefits. In most states, this periodic update will take place every two weeks.

Nearly two out of every three Americans who are unemployed are not receiving unemployment benefits. While some are ineligible to receive benefits, many don't want to go through the hassle of filing for unemployment benefits. More importantly, many people think they are unable to apply, and avoid filling out the application form. Even if you don't think you are eligible for unemployment benefits, or are unclear on your state's policies, go ahead and apply - you may be pleasantly surprised.

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