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Unemployment is not meant to replace all of your wages, but it can help to tide you over until you find a new job. In Pennsylvania -- as in most states -- you must meet certain criteria to be eligible for benefits. Unemployment compensation is typically time-limited and has a maximum amount you can receive. If you have dependents, you may also be able to receive additional money for up to two of them. You may be eligible for full- or part-time benefits, depending on your work situation.
To claim unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania, you must meet eligibility requirements. You must be out of work through no fault of your own. For example, if your employer closed the business or laid you off, you may meet the requirement. If you quit or were fired, you may not be able to receive unemployment compensation. You must also be willing, able and ready to return to work. Pennsylvania evaluates each application and makes a case-by-case determination about eligibility. You must file a claim to determine whether you meet the eligibility criteria.
Base Period Earnings
In addition to the other criteria, you must have earned money during what is called the base period prior to the date you file a claim. The base period is the first four quarters of the five-quarter period before you filed your claim. For example, if you file your claim in March, your base period would run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 of the previous year. Your weekly benefits will be determined by your earnings during the high quarter, or the quarter in which you were paid the most. Your wages cannot all have been earned in one quarter, however.
In most cases, your weekly benefit will be about one-half of your previous full-time weekly wage, up to the maximum amount allowed by the state of Pennsylvania. Your benefit is based on your previous earnings and varies according to the earnings amount. The maximum weekly benefit in Pennsylvania is $573 per week. You can also receive benefits for your dependent children -- $5 a week for the first child and $3 a week for a second child. You cannot receive more than $8 extra a week, however, even if you have more children or other dependents.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry offers a website that can help you calculate your potential unemployment benefits. However, many factors can affect the final benefit amount, and the charts on the website provide only an estimation. For example, if you earned $1,688 to $1,712 in your highest-paid quarter, you will receive $70 a week. If your earnings ranged from $8,138 to $10,012 in your highest-paid quarter, your potential benefit range is $328 to $402 a week. To receive the maximum benefit amount of $573 a week, you must have earned at least $14,263 in your highest-paid quarter. If you receive a large severance check from your employer, your benefits are reduced by the portion that exceeds 40 percent of the state's average annual wage.