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How long to claim unemployment benefits

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Unemployment Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states. Each state has its own Unemployment Insurance agency. They administer separate programs within guidelines established by federal law. This means eligibility requirements and benefits may vary slightly per state.

The state where the claim is filed determines benefit amounts, number of weeks benefits can be paid and other eligibility conditions. Some states also provide additional benefits for specific purposes.

Benefits are usually based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period up to a state maximum amount.

To be considered “eligible” there are two main factors to be considered:

  • The state requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period.”

* In most states, the base period is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed.

  • You must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own (determined under state law).

Benefit funding, in the majority of states, is based solely on a tax imposed on employers. Some states require minimal employee contributions. You can contact your State UI agency for more information.

Filing a Claim

To file a claim, the process can be done online or over the phone, depending on the state you reside.

If you no longer live in the state where you worked, you can either go to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) agency where you now live and ask for this information or look for it online.

If you have worked in different states, you can also acquire unemployment information at a UI agency near you or online.

If you are currently unemployed, you must contact the State Unemployment Insurance agency as soon as possible and apply.

Be prepared with all necessary information such as addresses and dates of your former employment. Be sure to give complete and correct information in order to not delay the process.

What Happens next?

Once you file an Unemployment Claim, it usually takes two to three weeks to

receive your first benefit check. Some states require a 1-week waiting period; therefore, the second week claimed is the first week of payment, if you are otherwise eligible.

Continued Eligibility

To continue to be eligible for benefits you must file weekly or biweekly claims (after the week(s) has ended) and respond to questions concerning your continued eligibility.

Claims must include:

  • Any earnings from work you had during the week(s).
  • Any job offers or refusal of work during the week.

When directed, you must report to your local Unemployment Insurance Claims Office or One-Stop/Employment Service Office on the day and at the time you are scheduled to do so.

These claims are usually filed by mail or telephone. The state will provide you with filing instructions.

If you fail to report as scheduled for any interview, benefits may be denied.

What if my claim is denied?

If you apply for unemployment and are disqualified or denied benefits, but you feel you are entitled to them you have the right to file an appeal.

The state will advise you of your appeal rights. You must file your appeal within an established time frame. Your employer may also appeal a determination if he or she does not agree with the state’s determination regarding your eligibility.

Only your State Workforce Agency  can make a determination to pay or deny benefits so, it is very important that you file an appeal and/or request reconsideration of your determination according to your state’s Unemployment laws.

Extended Benefits

Additional weeks of benefits may be available during times of high unemployment, which are known as Extended Benefits.

The basic Extended Benefits program provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits when a state is experiencing high unemployment.

Some states have passed a voluntary program to pay up to seven additional weeks with a 20 weeks maximum of Extended Benefits during periods of extremely high unemployment.

Keep in mind that not everyone who qualified for regular benefits qualifies for Extended Benefits.

Each state agency will inform you of your eligibility for Extended Benefits.

If you have any questions contact the Department of Labor at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.

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