If you have become unemployed through no fault of your own, applying for unemployment benefits is an essential first step to carry you over until you are hired for your next job.
There are some basic qualifications that need to be met, including having already worked a certain number of weeks and hours. Typically, if your employer lays you off due to lack of work or restructuring/outsourcing, the HR department should link you to how to apply for benefits.
In some cases, how you left your previous employment may have complicating factors. Even in those cases, it doesn’t hurt to apply, as this opens a case that the employer must respond to. Some employers will deny the claim if they feel the loss of the job was your fault (such as being fired or quitting voluntarily) but in other cases, they may not fight the claim, and therefore you could be awarded some benefits.
Benefits are short-term, and typically, there is a waiting week before they start. In most states, it is for 26 weeks, and you do have to continue to look for work and document your efforts in order to keep receiving the benefits. Unemployment benefits are for those who can continue working and should not be confused with applying for disability benefits, which are for when you can no longer work due to some kind of health factor.
If you are not sure where to apply, most states have an unemployment office. Many times, the application process begins online, so a simple internet search for your state’s unemployment office gets you started.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government has made some changes to unemployment benefits. If your employer has laid you off due to the crisis, you still must start the application online at your state’s unemployment website (make sure the website address ends in .gov before submitting personal information!). Your employer may give you special documentation, so be sure to keep ALL paperwork or emails from your employer. The waiting week has been waived, as well as the need to document searches for new work. Many states, however, are seeing longer processing times and trouble logging in due to the high volume of applications. States are advising applicants to keep trying and to still apply because your benefits will be backdated to your qualifying date.
When you apply for benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, utility assistance, etc., you will need proof of income and/or documentation from your employer about the status of your job. Many times, when you no longer work for a company, you are unable to log in to get pay stubs, so be sure to print or save them as you go along or if you are worried you may get laid off. Make sure you keep records of your pay stubs.
The unemployment office may also have resources to help direct you on the path to finding your next job!
By Joyce McCauley-Benner