How To File For Unemployment – Claims & Benefits

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If you were laid off from your job and are worried about having enough money to pay your monthly expenses, one option potentially available to you is filing for unemployment.

Depending on the state you live in, you may be able to apply for unemployment benefits online, over the phone or by mailing in a claim form.

For instance, unemployment applicants in California have the option to file online, over the phone or by mail. However, in Florida all unemployment claims must be filed online.

You should always check with your state unemployment office to verify the required procedures. If you have moved to another state since you were last employed, you should file a claim in the state where you last worked.

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must have been terminated through no fault of your own and be looking for another job.

There are a few issues that may affect your eligibility:
  • You quit or were fired
  • You are suspended or on leave of absence
  • You are unable or unavailable to work
  • You are self-employed

If none of these affects you, you probably meet the basic requirements and you may file a claim to collect benefits.

However, each state’s office of unemployment will make the final determination of eligibility. Usually the office will interview you as a part of the claims process. If you are denied for any reason, you may appeal the decision.

You should not feel bad if you are in a position of needing unemployment. First, the whole reason for unemployment is to help people stay on their feet financially while they look for another job.

And second, as a fully employed person you pay into the unemployment system, as does your employer. So if you collect unemployment benefits, you are getting money from a fund to which you have already contributed.

Unemployment benefits exist to keep you out of long-term debt, to keep you afloat until you are working again. If your debt problems are overwhelming, you can enter a debt settlement plan to cut your bills while you look for a job.

Preparing to File a Claim

Before you file a claim, you should have all the information you need to file.

While each state may require slightly different documentation, here is a list of information typically required when filing a claim:
  • Your Social Security number
  • The names, addresses and phone numbers of previous employers
  • Employer’s Federal ID number from W2 or paystub
  • Dates worked and gross pay from each employer
  • Driver’s license or State ID, voter registration or other form of ID
  • Alien Registration Number and work permit, if applicable
  • Your current address and phone number
  • Bank account information if you choose to have benefits directly deposited into your account

Once you have all the required information, check with your state’s unemployment office for detailed instructions on how to file a claim. Another important fact to consider is that all unemployment benefits are taxable.

When opening a claim, you may opt to have taxes withheld from each payment.

Collecting Benefits

After filing your initial claim, you may then file every week to continue your benefits. If you skip a week of filing for benefits, the office will automatically close your claim and you may need to reopen the claim if you still wish to receive benefits.

Each state has different options for disbursing benefits. In general, a check may be mailed to you, or electronic payments may be made to a debit card or directly deposited into your bank account. Most states allow you to check on the status of a claim and your claim history online or over the phone.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

Sources:

  1. Doyle, A. (2012). "Filing for unemployment." Retrieved from: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/unemployment/a/fileunemploy.htm
  2. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. (2012). "Frequently asked questions." Retrieved from http://www.floridajobs.org/job-seekers-community-services/unemployment-compensation-benefits-center/file-a-claim
  3. State of California Employment Development Department. (2010). "Unemployment frequently asked questions." Retrieved from http://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Filing_a_Claim.htm