How Does Unemployment Work?

Unemployment insurance compensation dates back to the Social Security Act of 1935, where the Social Security Administration was charged with implementing and overseeing the first United States unemployment program. Since then the oversight of unemployment has shifted from the Social Security Administration to the individual state department of welfare or department of social services (depending on your particular state). After being laid off a common question for individuals is “How Does Unemployment Work?” Unfortunately, it can be tough to find clear cut answers to this crucial question, either through the Internet or otherwise. In this post, we will go through how unemployment benefits work, how unemployment benefit extension payments work and what information you will need to provide to complete an unemployment application.

State and Federal Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment insurance is based both upon federal and state laws. Federal laws provide a general framework and state laws fill in the remaining details (including specific eligibility requirements and prior work history income levels). When you initially file for benefits you need to do it through you state’s department of labor, department of welfare or department of social services. Benefits for each state will vary but are generally offered for a minimum of 13 weeks and a maximum of 26 weeks.

Once you have tapped out all available state benefits you can enroll for an extension of unemployment benefits through the federal unemployment insurance program. Depending on the timing of when you lost your job, you may be eligible for federal unemployment benefits extension payments for a maximum of 53 unemployment claim weeks. If you still have not found a job after using all available unemployment benefits extension payments through the federal government you can sometimes (depending on the state you live in) qualify for another round of state-based benefits for a maximum of 20 weeks. In total, someone in the right situation can be paid up to 99 weeks of total unemployment benefits (almost two complete years)!

General Qualifications

States will evaluate several factors when determining whether to approve your unemployment insurance claims. First, the reason you lost your job cannot be because of your own purposeful actions. Second, you must have been working for an employer who was paying unemployment tax to the state you are in (the tax is also known commonly as a “payroll tax”). Third, you must have earned a minimal amount of income during your work history leading up to the time that you submit your application. Fourth, you must either be a United States citizen or have a valid Alien Identification Number issued by the United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Information For The Application

Be prepared to have the following information available at the time that you submit your unemployment application:

  • Your full name, daytime phone number, address and Social Security number
  • The name and contact information for all employers you have had during the previous 18-24 months (this time frame will depend on your particular state)

Hopefully this information will help you as you try to answer the question “How Does Unemployment Work?

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