Employment » Unemployment » Unemployment Benefits Available in the US

Unemployment Benefits Available in the US

By IntFormalities
Updated on February 18, 2023
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Admit it; being unemployed is no fun, especially when you didn’t voluntarily quit your job or get fired. The prospect of monthly bills and recurring expenses with little to no finance is not what anyone cuts out for. But are you aware that you can get financial help in the US? If you’re currently facing this situation, you can get access to unemployment benefits, such as unemployment insurance and extended benefits. Let’s explore all you need to know to apply for them. Find out about the requirements and whether you meet the criteria below.  

Unemployment benefits in the US
If you are out of a job, you can apply for unemployment benefits to get financial help in the meantime.

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance, also known as unemployment benefits, is a form of financial assistance provided to unemployed workers. The benefits initiative is a joint venture between the U.S Department of Labor and state governments that provides cash stipends to out-of-work Americans that meet certain requirements. 

This compensation is made available through the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) and employment agencies across the 50 states. While the states facilitate the benefits, the Federal Department of Labor foots the administrative costs. 

What Are Extended Benefits?

As the name suggests, extended benefits (EB) consist of additional compensation for unemployed workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance (UI). This typically happens in periods of high unemployment in which the federal government extends the insurance programs for additional weeks.

Remember that you can only obtain extended benefits after you have exhausted your basic unemployment benefits. As to who qualifies, not everyone who qualifies for UI may be eligible for EB. But if you don’t qualify for UI, you will not qualify for EB. 

How Do You Qualify for Extended Benefits?

Not everyone who qualifies for unemployment insurance will get access to extended benefits. The state agency will inform you if you qualify for the extended benefits during periods of high unemployment. However, in general, you: 

  • Must have exhausted the regular 26 weeks of unemployment assistance from the state.
  • Must not qualify for UI benefits in any other state.
  • Must be currently unemployed and actively in search of work.
  • Must have no disqualifications that might prevent you from getting access to EB from the state.

If you are disqualified from receiving UI benefits, you are automatically ineligible for EB. If you’re eligible for EB, the state agency will inform you through the usual channel. 

How Much is Unemployment Insurance?

The unemployment benefits vary according to each state across the country. However, cash stipends can range between $300 to $974 weekly. 

The stipends you receive are heavily influenced by your base period and the wages earned during this period. You can use this free unemployment benefits calculator to estimate your benefits.

How Much Unemployment Insurance can I get?
The amount of your stipend depends on your personal situation and varies from state to state, but you can expect to receive between $300 to $974 per week. 

How Long Can You Receive These Benefits?

Unemployed workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment assistance (UI). The federal government-sponsored EB program provides up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits. However, states like Connecticut and New Mexico have volunteered to pay up to 7 extra weeks. This brings the total unemployed assistance to 39 weeks in most states or 46 weeks if you reside in Connecticut or New Mexico. 

How to be Eligible for the Unemployment Insurance

While each individual state sets the terms for eligibility, there are some general guidelines to receive unemployment benefits. In general, you qualify if you fall into one of the following categories.

You are unemployed through no fault of your own

This typically happens in periods of lack of availability of work. If an employer ceases operation or you leave due to the risk of exposure to infectious diseases, you are eligible for the benefits. There’s a caveat to this requirement. You won’t be able to file a claim for either the unemployment insurance or the extended benefits if:

  • You willingly resigned from your previous work.
  • You were fired from your previous employment.

Meet wage and work requirements in the state

You must also meet the mandated threshold of the resident state for wages earned or time worked for a specific time. This is often referred to as the base period. For most states, the base period is the first 4 out of the last 5 calendar quarters complete before a claim is filed. 

In any case, your resident state will perform background checks to confirm that you meet the requirements and other criteria, before receiving unemployment insurance. You can check the requirements of your own state program here

Who Qualifies for Unemployment Insurance?
To qualify for Unemployment Insurance you must have lost your job through no fault of your own and meet the requirements set by your state.

How Long Do You Have to Wait to Start Receiving the Unemployed Insurance?

It typically takes 14 to 21 days to process before you receive your first stipend. Depending on the mode of filing your claim, you can always check for the status of your claim. 

How Do You Apply for Unemployment Insurance?

To receive unemployment assistance, you need to first file a claim with the insurance program of your resident state. Depending on your state, you can file this claim either in person, via phone call, or online. 

If your resident state is different from the one where you worked, the insurance agency in your resident state will provide details on how to file a claim with other states. You can look up your state unemployment insurance office here.

The documents and information required during filing include: 

  • Address of your previous employment
  • Dates of onboarding and termination of the previous role

This information should be accurate for swift facilitation. 

In short

From all indications, unemployment benefits help cushion unemployment’s effects on workers. During economic meltdowns, these benefits can help level your purchasing power. Thankfully, this article has provided you with everything you need to know about these benefits and how to apply for them.  So, what are you waiting for?

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