The loss of a job can be devastating both financially and to a worker’s self-confidence. Fortunately, the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides financial assistance to displaced workers who are either unemployed or underemployed through no fault of their own. Following an unemployment weekly claim, the UI program provides a portion of the worker’s income while the displaced worker looks for new employment.

In order for unemployment claims to be accepted and benefits to be paid out, workers must meet initial and continuous eligibility requirements. While some eligibility requirements may vary between state programs, a worker must generally have a loss of wages due to no fault of his or her own and meet work hour- and wage-related requirements. Additionally, workers must be able and willing to work and actively seek new employment opportunities.

In most states, unemployment claims must be made each week in order to continue to receive benefits. However, some states require biweekly claims to be submitted instead. While the methods for submitting a weekly or biweekly claim vary between states, claims can commonly be made online, over the phone or in person at a local office.

What to Know Before You Apply for Unemployment Insurance

Before learning how to apply for unemployment, it is important to know more about the Unemployment Insurance program. This program assists qualifying displaced workers with monetary benefits that can reduce the financial hardship of unemployment and can help workers continue to pay household expenses, such as housing, food and medical costs.

In addition to monetary benefits, an applicant’s local unemployment office may provide additional benefits, such as work programs, job counseling, assistance in building a resume and job referrals. Benefits are funded through a tax that is imposed on employers. However, federal law bars employers from passing this tax down onto their employees.

Learn About the Requirements to Get an Unemployment Check

Before you apply for unemployment, it is worth taking the time to learn more about the eligibility requirements that you must meet in order to receive UI benefits, as many of these requirements will need to be met when submitting a weekly claim. While these requirements do vary between state programs, to be eligible for benefits you must generally:

  • Be underemployed or unemployed through any fault of your own.
  • Meet minimum work requirements within your “base period”. For most states, this is the first four out of the last five calendar quarters prior to the date you file your first claim.
  • Meet minimum wage requirements within your “base period”.
  • Be considered “employed” and not “self-employed”.
  • Provide accurate and truthful information on your application to the best of your ability.

The wages that you earn within your base period will not only help to determine your eligibility for the Unemployment Insurance program but also the amount of benefits that you are eligible to receive.

Is there an unemployment calculator to determine benefit amounts available?

Some state programs offer an unemployment calculator that can help you to determine the amount of benefits you may be eligible to receive if found eligible for the Unemployment Insurance program. Benefit amounts are calculated by the amount of wages that you earned during your base period, any other source of income that you currently have and your state’s maximum benefit amount.

Generally, you can receive UI benefits for a maximum of 26 months. In some cases, you may be eligible to receive benefits longer when extensions are available. However, extensions are generally only available during periods of high unemployment throughout the state.

Your benefit amount will also be affected by whether or not you wish for your unemployment office to withhold federal income tax when calculating your benefits. Unemployment Insurance benefits are subject to federal income tax, however, you can choose to pay the tax on your benefits later, should you choose.

How to Apply for Unemployment

When you are ready to apply to UI benefits, you must submit an application with your state agency. Depending on the state you worked in, you may be able to submit an application online, over the phone or by visiting your local office.

When filing for UI benefits for the first time, you will need to submit an initial claim. To do so, you must provide information about yourself and employer, including:

  • Your full name, date of birth and Social Security Number.
  • The company names and addresses of your previous employers.
  • The dates that you worked for each recent employer.
  • The reason that you have become underemployed or unemployed.

If you apply for unemployment online, you must create a login to submit an application. You will then also use your unemployment benefits login for each of your weekly or biweekly claims.

How to File Weekly or Biweekly Unemployment Claims

You must generally file an unemployment weekly claim while receiving benefits, while your eligibility for the UI program is being determined and while filing appeals. However, some state programs will have you file biweekly claims instead of weekly ones.

Each time you file a claim, you will be asked to provide information that will help your unemployment office determine your continuous eligibility, including:

  • Whether or not you have been offered employment or refused employment during the week.
  • Whether or not you had any income during the week and, if so, details about your income.
  • Whether or not you are able and willing to work.

You will likely be asked additional questions based upon other program eligibility requirements that your state program chooses to impose.

What happens if you forget to file your unemployment weekly claim?

If you fail to submit your unemployment weekly claim, you most likely will not receive payment for that week, even if you were unemployed and meeting all of your eligibility requirements to receive benefits. Therefore, it is imperative that you follow your state program’s guidelines regarding claim submission carefully in order to ensure that you do not forfeit your benefits.

What to Do If Your Unemployment Weekly Claim is Denied

After filing initial or ongoing unemployment claims, state agencies must determine whether or not a displaced worker is eligible to receive benefits from the Unemployment Insurance program. If the worker is not eligible for UI benefits, a denial letter will be mailed to the applicant. A denial letter may be sent even after initial approval for benefits if a worker no longer qualifies.

If you receive a denial letter, it is essential that you read your letter carefully in order to determine why you were denied. If you disagree with the decision that your office has made, you have the right to file an appeal. However, it is crucial that you continue to file claims during your appeal.