Unemployment insurance is a program in each state that helps workers who lose their jobs due to factors beyond their control to maintain a reasonable standard of living until they can find work again. Unemployment insurance is only available to workers who qualify. Eligibility depends on a number of factors, including how long it's been since you lost your job.
When to File
While unemployment insurance claims requirements differ by state, they are generally similar. In some cases you will need to file for benefits every week or every two weeks. This filing must occur within a specified time from the week in which you did not work. For example, in Ohio you must file for weekly benefits within 21 days of the week you're claiming for. This means that if you wait a year (52 weeks) from when you lose your job to file your first claim, you may still be eligible for benefits, but you'll have lost the right to benefits for the first 49 weeks you were unemployed.
Year-End Job Loss
If you lose your job near the end of a calendar year, you can still receive full benefits by filing within the first few weeks of the next year. The same timeline for filing applies. For example, if you lose jour job in Ohio in the last week of December, you have until the end of the third week in January to file for benefits for your first week of unemployment. Your filing in the new year does not make you ineligible for benefits you deserve for the last week of the previous year, nor does it prevent you from receiving benefits well into the year after your job loss.
When you file for unemployment benefits also affects how much you receive. Waiting until the next year can reduce or eliminate your benefit. Most states use your income history over the previous five quarters, or 15 months, to determine your benefit amount. This means if you wait a year to file for unemployment, you may not meet eligibility requirements based on your previous income. Even if you do qualify, you'll receive a much lower benefit than if you had filed earlier.
Tips and Advice
As soon as you lose your job, find out how your state's unemployment insurance program works. Even if you don't file for benefits immediately, the earlier you file, the better your chances will be of qualifying for a benefit that's large enough to help you. In addition, if you move to a new state while unemployed, contact your old state's unemployment office to determine how to change your contact information. Since the employer where you lost your job paid payroll taxes in your old state, that state will continue to fund your unemployment regardless of where you move.