Unemployment compensation is targeted to workers who lose their jobs for reasons outside their control, such as a work stoppage or layoff. To receive unemployment benefits, you must be able and available to work. The government recognizes that returning to full-time work may not be immediately possible. So you can collect unemployment benefits while you are receiving stipend income under certain circumstances. If, however, the income you receive exceeds a certain percentage or dollar value of your weekly benefit amount, your benefits may be reduced or interrupted.
Look at your benefits award letter from the state unemployment agency to find your weekly benefit amount.
Consult your state agency's unemployment benefits handbook or frequently asked questions Web page on its website. Each state has different rules regarding how much you can earn while still collecting benefits. In New York state, for example, your weekly stipend cannot exceed a fixed amount ($405 as of 2011) and you cannot work for more than three days in a week if you want to collect unemployment.
In Texas, you can receive a stipend of up to 25 percent of your weekly benefit amount before your benefits are reduced. But if you work full time, you cannot receive benefits, even if your income does not exceed 25 percent of your regularly weekly benefit amount. Minnesota and Connecticut also allow you to earn a stipend that can't exceed a certain percentage of benefits. In California, as of 2011, you can earn $25 a week without reducing the amount of benefits. Find out what the "not to exceed" rule is in your state.
Calculate, according to your state's rules, how much you can receive as a stipend without benefit interruption. For example, in Texas you would multiply your weekly benefit figure by .25. The resulting figure is what you could receive as stipend income without any reduction in benefits.
File your claim form, taking care to report the stipend income. Failing to report income is considered fraud. If your stipend does exceed the percentage or dollar amount that makes you eligible in your state for full weekly benefits, you may still be eligible for partial benefits. The amount of partial benefits is, again, determined according to state regulations.
Look for your benefit payment, or a letter from your state agency explaining why benefits were reduced or eliminated for that week.
If you have trouble finding your state's regulations on receiving earned income and benefits simultaneously, contact the agency by phone or email.