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Qualifying for unemployment means working an appropriate length of time, which is five calendar quarters, to substantiate receiving 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. If you are still unemployed after that time, you may qualify for an additional 26 weeks of benefits, or more depending on the state's unemployment rate. Depending on the timing of your claim, you may apply for unemployment benefits twice in one year or a full 52 weeks.
The standard length of unemployment benefits is 26 weeks, or a full six months. To qualify for benefits, you must be partially or totally unemployed and have an approved job separation. In addition, the length of your employment should cover the base period, calculated as five calendar quarters prior to filing a claim. It doesn't matter if you switched employers, as long as you worked enough during the base period.
If filing a claim in the latter part of the year, you can only file for unemployment once, since the regular unemployment compensation lasts six months. If the timing of your application for unemployment occurs toward the beginning of the year, you may apply a second time for unemployment compensation after the first 26 weeks of claiming benefits.
Extended benefits lengthens the time you may claim unemployment compensation after your 26 weeks of receiving benefits. Depending on the state in which you live, the extended period may be as long as 20 additional weeks. However, residents in states with declining unemployment rates, such as Pennsylvania, no longer qualify for extended benefits.
Emergency Unemployment Compensation
Emergency unemployment compensation extends your benefits for an additional 34 to 53 weeks, and in some cases 99 weeks, in states with high unemployment rates. EUC benefits are broken down into four tiers. Tier 1 lasts 20 weeks and Tier 2 an additional 14 weeks. For states with unemployment rates of 6.5 percent or higher, out-of-work employees qualify for an additional 13 weeks, and residents in states with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or higher qualify for six weeks of additional benefits.
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