The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program is a federal assistance program that offers financial aid to displaced workers who have lost employment through no fault of their own. Administered on a state level, this program helps to ease some of the burdens that workers may be facing while between jobs. In order to be eligible for benefits, the worker must meet certain qualifications, including work and wage minimums.

Before you learn how to apply for unemployment, it is important to learn more about the UI program, including eligibility requirements, benefits and appeals. By doing so, you will know what to expect of your application, the process of determining whether or not you are eligible for benefits and what you must do to continue to receive benefits after you have been approved. Once ready to apply, you must submit a claim with your unemployment office, typically online, over the phone or by visiting your local office in person.

How to Review UI Requirements Before You Apply for Unemployment

Before you apply for unemployment online or in person, it is important to learn more about the Unemployment Insurance program’s eligibility requirements. While eligibility requirements often differ between state programs, many general qualifications remain the same.

UI benefits are only afforded to displaced workers when their job loss was not their fault. For example, benefits are almost always provided in the case of a layoff, so long as all other eligibility requirements can be met. You may not be eligible for benefits if your unemployment is related to:

  • A violation of a company policy.
  • Voluntarily disclosing confidential information to a third party.
  • Performing dishonest actions, such as lying or stealing.
  • Breaking the law in any way.
  • Drinking alcohol or taking any other type of illicit substance during work hours.

If you were fired, you may still qualify for benefits under the Unemployment Insurance program. In these cases, your local unemployment office will determine whether or not you are eligible to receive benefits by reviewing the circumstances that surround your termination.

When submitting unemployment claims, it is important to understand that you will only be eligible to receive assistance if you meet your state program’s work and wage qualifications. To meet these requirements, you must have worked enough and earned enough during your base period. Your base period generally consists of four calendar months and, in most states, those calendar months are the first four of the last five completed quarters.

In addition to meeting these qualifications, you must be able and willing to work. If you are offered a job while receiving benefits and you refuse the job offer, you could lose benefits unless you had a justifiable reason for refusing the employment opportunity.

Can you collect unemployment if you quit?

After you apply for unemployment, your local office will determine whether or not you are considered to be at fault for your displacement. In most cases, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits if you voluntarily left your place of unemployment.

However, you may still qualify under extreme circumstances, such as if your employer would have you complete tasks that are illegal in any way. In cases such as these, you may be required to fulfill the burden of proof during the unemployment appeal process.

Understanding Unemployment Claims Benefits

When filing unemployment claims, it is essential that you know what to expect in regards to your potential benefit amount. Benefits are calculated using several factors, including the wages that you earned during your base period and your state program’s maximum benefit amount. Any income that you are currently receiving from other sources will also be considered.

The maximum amount of time that you may receive UI benefits is typically 26 weeks. However, some states will offer benefit extensions during periods of high unemployment rates throughout the state.

Is an unemployment calculator available to estimate benefit amounts?

Some state programs provide applicants with an unemployment calculator in order to give a better estimate of potential benefit amounts. However, this is not always the case, and benefit amounts can vary widely between states due to the differences in maximum benefits.

How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

You may be able to apply for unemployment online depending on the state that you are submitting an application for benefits with. An online claim is generally considered to be the most convenient way to file a claim. You will need to create an unemployment benefits login to utilize online services. The login should be something that you can remember as you must sign in each time you wish to file your weekly or biweekly claim.

If an online claim system is not available to you or you would prefer a different application method, most states will also accept claims over the phone or at local unemployment offices. When filing a claim, you will need to provide your personal information as well as the names and addresses of your previous employers and the dates that you worked for each employer.

How to File Your Unemployment Weekly Claim

You must file an unemployment weekly claim each week that you wish to receive unemployment benefits. Rather than every week, some state UI programs require recipients to file on a biweekly basis. When submitting your claim, you will be required to provide basic information that will confirm your continued eligibility for benefits.

Should you fail to submit a claim, you will likely fail to receive benefits for the days that the claim would have covered (weekly or biweekly, based on your state).

How and When to File an Unemployment Appeal

If your unemployment claims are denied, you can file an appeal. An unemployment appeal will not guarantee that a different decision will be made in your case, however, it does allow reconsideration in order to ensure that your denial was not made in error. Should you wish to file an appeal, you must follow the instructions found on your decision letter and request an appeal before the cutoff date that is listed.

Learn About Receiving Benefits After Unemployment Claims are Approved

Once your unemployment claims have been approved by your state UI program, you can begin to receive your benefits. You will only receive benefits for claims that you make during the appropriate week. Should you fail to submit a claim, the benefits that you would have received for that week will most likely be forfeited.

When submitting your initial application for Unemployment Insurance, you would have likely needed to answer questions regarding how you wish to receive benefits. Depending on your state program, benefits may be provided on a pre-paid debit card or you may be given the option to have them direct deposited into your bank account.