Learn How Unemployment Benefits Can Help You Get Back on Your Feet

Unemployment benefits are provided by the state to out-of-work residents. However, not all applicants are qualified to receive these benefits. 

Each state sets the eligibility standards for applicants, and the requirements can vary widely. There are various types of aid available to unemployed workers, including weekly financial assistance, educational training and job-search tools. 

Regardless of the circumstances, financial assistance is a temporary solution and cannot continue indefinitely. Participants must follow strict rules while receiving financial aid to maintain eligibility. Training programs and non-financial benefits are generally free to qualifying workers and subject to the laws of each state.

Learn About Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance (UI) is the most common form of unemployment benefits. Weekly or monthly payments are issued to eligible applicants from state-funded programs. The amount of money an individual receives and the length of time he or she can collect compensation for is based on the details of the claim. 

Length of Time

Most states offer 26 weeks of benefits to eligible, out-of-work employees. However, these numbers are often based on local employment rates and state laws, causing benefit lengths to vary across the country. For example, Massachusetts offers 30 weeks of unemployment insurance, while Florida offers 12. 

Weekly Payments

The amount of compensation issued per week is typically based on your previous income. State applications may ask what you earned over the past month, quarter or year in order to determine how much you are entitled to. These amounts vary between claims and states.   

Filing Your Taxes

If you have received unemployment insurance, you must record the final amount on your tax return. UI funds issued by the state are considered income and must be filed as such. Failure to do so may result in fines or penalties. 

The following items are considered unemployment income by the Inland Revenue Service (IRS):

  • State unemployment insurance 
  • Payments issued from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund by a state or the District of Columbia
  • Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
  • Disability benefits paid in lieu of unemployment insurance
  • Trade readjustment allowances issued under the terms of Trade Act of 1974
  • Unemployment assistance paid under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974
  • Unemployment assistance paid under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 program

In some cases, you need to submit estimated tax payments each quarter, but you will be notified if this is the case. You can request that the federal income tax be withheld on your benefits, but you must fill out the right form and submit it to your local UI office.

Note: You may find that withholding the federal income tax is easier than making the quarterly payments. Keep this in mind when signing up for benefits!

Learn About Requirements for Unemployment 

Not all workers are entitled to unemployment benefits. Each state enforces a specific set of guidelines to determine an applicant’s eligibility. Anyone who does not meet unemployment insurance during their first application may still be eligible if certain circumstances change. 

Learn About Basic Program Requirements

Not all states adhere to the same rules and regulations. However, in general, applicants who have lost their job due to no fault of their own are eligible for aid. 

The following rules may also apply to your application:

  • You must meet all earning requirements. You may be required to show proof of money earned or time worked over a one-year period. Specific income amounts and employment periods are set by the state and subject to local regulations. Self-employed and part-time workers may also be eligible to receive certain benefits under state laws. 
  • You must have lost your job due to qualifying reasons. Typically, employees who quit are not eligible for compensation. However, wrongful termination or conduct that forced you to quit may qualify you for assistance. 
  • You must have worked within the state for a set period of time. Employees must have held a job within the state for a set number of weeks before they are eligible to collect unemployment. Each state adheres to a different set minimum. For example, if you move to a new state and hold a job for one week, you may not be eligible for compensation. 
  • You must be willing to work. Regardless of the state, applicants must be willing to find and apply for new opportunities. Failure to do so may disqualify you from collecting compensation. 

How do I keep receiving unemployment payments?

The unemployment insurance process does not stop with the application. You must meet ongoing requirements to maintain your eligibility for the program. You need to conduct weekly and monthly job searches and file these searches as an ongoing part of your claim. If you do not accept reasonable job offers, part-time work, contract work or attend interviews, the state may stop your benefits. 

Learn About Other Types of Unemployment Benefits

If you have been unfairly dismissed from your job, you may qualify for more than just monetary compensation. Some states offer free or low-cost training programs as well as a variety of resources to help you find work. 

Learn About Free Training and Job Search Assistance

Besides financial help, an unemployment office can offer vital skill classes or training for more advanced positions. These resources help workers retain their value and find more work opportunities. 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides funding for services that retrain unemployed applicants and places them in new jobs. The following programs are available to eligible participants:

  • Apprenticeship Programs – Applicants are placed in apprenticeship roles and offered classroom training to help develop new skills.  
  • Employment Networks – Applicants receiving Social Security benefits may be eligible for free career advice and job placement programs within the government’s Employment Network. 
  • Farmworker Jobs Programs – Migrants and seasonal workers are given help training for agricultural work and finding new jobs.
  • Native American Programs – Applicants from Native American communities are given access to job training programs and access to relevant employment opportunities. These services take the cultural values of the Native American community into consideration when issuing services. 
  • Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) – Older workers are given help transitioning from part-time, subsidized work to the private sector. 
  • Jobs Corp Center and Youth Programs – Younger applicants between the ages of 16 and 24 years old may be eligible for free job training and assistance finding work. 

Learn About Assistance for Self-Employed Individuals

In most states, federally funded programs help self-employed workers start their own businesses instead of looking for full-time, salaried work. Eligible participants receive weekly UI income while focusing their attention on building a new company. Delaware, Oregon, New York, Mississippi and New Hampshire do not currently offer these programs. 

Learn About State Rules and Regulations

You must apply for benefits online through your state’s unemployment department. Follow the online prompts to search for benefits in your area, find out if you are eligible for aid and submit an application. 

Unemployment rules, requirements and programs differ between states and are subject to local legislation. Some states offer additional benefits if the local unemployment rate is particularly high, or there are not enough opportunities to meet the needs of eligible residents.

In some states, workers can claim a 13-week extension on existing benefits. However, this extension may be shorter in certain jurisdictions. Anyone who feels as though they are eligible for benefits can appeal denials as necessary.