If you have recently lost your place of employment through no fault of your own, you may qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. While each state UI program is different, you can typically file a claim for benefits online, by mail, over the phone or at your local unemployment office. 

By learning more about Unemployment Insurance, you will be better prepared for your application as well as understand eligibility and continued eligibility requirements. Should you be denied benefits, it is important to learn about the appeal process within your state, if you wish to appeal the decision. If you are granted benefits, it is worth taking the time to learn how you will receive payments in order to know what to expect. 

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment Insurance is a federal program that is administered on a state level to provide compensation to unemployed workers who have lost their jobs due to unforeseen circumstances. The program provides monetary benefits for a set period of time while workers search for a new place of employment, thus assisting with some of the monthly expenses that the displaced worker may be facing. 

While UI is a federal program, each state sets its own eligibility requirements, benefit payments and limits on how long benefits can be received in accordance with federal laws and guidelines. Therefore, it is essential that you learn more about the Unemployment Insurance program in your state if you intend to file for benefits. 

Reviewing Unemployment Insurance Requirements

Each state Unemployment Insurance program has its own guidelines for eligibility requirements regarding unemployment benefits. However, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you are unemployed through no fault of your own and you meet both wage and work criteria. 

Work and wage qualifications refer to the amount of time worked and the number of wages earned during a specific period of time leading up to your unemployment claim. This time period is referred to as your “base period”. This period in most states is calculated using the past four out of the five completed calendar quarters before the quarter that you filed your unemployment claim in. Not only do work and wage requirements determine eligibility, but also the number of benefits that you will receive. 

Depending on the state that you live within, you may need to meet additional eligibility requirements before you can begin to receive Unemployment Insurance payments. 

Find Out How to File for Unemployment Insurance

It is crucial that you file for Unemployment Insurance soon after you become unemployed or underemployed. Your local unemployment office will not provide you with back pay for any benefits that you may have been eligible for if you had filed sooner. 

Filing for unemployment benefits is relatively simple. However, the methods that may be available to you differ between states. Depending on your state program, you may be able to file an unemployment claim online, over the phone or by visiting your local office. 

When filing for Unemployment Insurance, it is essential that you follow the instructions for filing carefully and that you provide accurate and truthful information to the best of your ability. Inaccurate information could potentially delay your benefits or result in the denial of UI benefits. 

Learn Where to File for Unemployment When You Work in a Different State 

If you live in a different state than that state that you worked within, you will generally need to file in your state of employment. However, if you were employed in several states, you should contact your state unemployment office to advise you where and how to submit your claim. 

Information You Will Need to Provide When Filing for Unemployment Benefits

The information that you will need to provide when filing for Unemployment Insurance may vary between states. However, some of the information that you will likely need to provide includes: 

  • Your legal name, date of birth and Social Security Number. 
  • Your state-issued driver’s license or identification card number. 
  • Your contact information, including your complete mailing address and a telephone number where you can be reached. 
  • Your employer information, including the company names and addresses of previous employers (for up to the last two years) and the dates that you worked for each employer. 
  • The reason for your loss of employment. 

Filing for Weekly Benefits 

After filing your initial Unemployment Insurance claim, you will need to file a claim each week (or biweekly depending on the state) in order to continue to receive benefits. These claims must even be filed while your UI eligibility is being determined and during an appeal, when applicable. Payments will not be provided to you if you do not submit your claims within the appropriate week. 

If approved, you will likely receive your benefits by check, a pre-paid debit card or through direct deposit. The payment methods that may be available to you will depend on your state. When filing for unemployment for the first time, you will be able to review these payment options and select the way that you would like to receive benefits. 

Learn How to Keep Your Unemployment Benefits

You must meet continued eligibility qualifications while you are receiving unemployment benefits. These eligibility requirements do vary by state, but most states will at least require you to do the following: 

  • File each week or every other week
  • Report any income you earned that week
  • Report job offers you have received or declined during the week
  • Report to your local UI office, when requested
  • Register for work with the State Employment Service

As there is a variance between states in regards to continued UI eligibility, it is very important that you review your state program’s rules carefully. 

What to Do If You Are Denied Unemployment Benefits

If you are denied unemployment benefits, you will receive a letter in the mail that will include the reason for your denial and the steps that you can take to appeal the decision, should you wish to. There are several reasons that an application for UI benefits may be rejected, but some of the most common reasons include: 

  • Voluntarily leaving employment without ‘good cause’. 
  • A loss of unemployment due to misconduct. 
  • Failing to be able or available to work. 
  • Refusing an offer for suitable employment. 

Regardless of the reason you are denied UI benefits, you can appeal your decision and request a reconsideration. While filing an appeal does not guarantee a different outcome on your case, it does provide your case with a second look in order to determine whether or not the decision made on your case was made in error. 

If you are not interested in filing an appeal, it is crucial that you follow the steps documented on your Unemployment Insurance denial letter by the date that is shown. You will not be able to file an appeal beyond the date that is stated in your letter.