Unemployment insurance is a federal program administered by the states. It is meant to provide temporary income to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs. If you plan to claim unemployment benefits, it is advisable to notify your state agency as soon as you are laid off. In most states, it is difficult to get benefits for weeks that predate your initial claim. Many states now allow the unemployed to both apply and recertify their eligibility online or by phone.
File a claim. In addition to filing online or by phone, you may also be able to file by mail. Each state sets its own administrative rules, so double-check your state agency's current regulations. Once you have filed, if you are deemed eligible, your state will send a letter or notice detailing the total amount and weekly amount of the award. You will also receive check(s) for the weeks that have passed since the date of your initial claim.
File your weekly or biweekly certification. Once you have started receiving benefits, you must re-certify your eligibility every week or two. You must confirm that you are still able and willing to work and that you have looked for work. You must also let the state know if you earned any money during a given week and if so, how much. Depending on your state's regulations, you may still be eligible for partial benefits even if you have earned income.
Reopen your claim. If your benefits stopped because you worked a 40-hour week, for example, then your income ceased because the job ended, you can notify the state agency that you are once again eligible for benefits. In most states, you can take this step online or by phone.
Answer the questions on the initial claim form and subsequent recertification forms honestly to avoid fines, penalties or possibly prosecution.