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Job loss can be a difficult time for families and individuals, bringing stress, depression and financial hardship. To help alleviate these problems, each state administers its own form of unemployment insurance. These programs pay cash benefits to the unemployed up to set limits. The money you receive from unemployment can help keep you financially stable while you seek a new job.
If you lose your job through no fault of your own and meet your state's unemployment eligibility guidelines, it is within your rights to file for unemployment and receive a benefit. State unemployment insurance programs use money that the state collects from employers. This means that when you worked, your employer paid into the system on your behalf. While most workers will never need to draw on unemployment insurance, the funds are there for those who do.
Each state sets its own eligibility guidelines for filing for unemployment. In general, those who file must have lost a job through no fault of their own. This means that if you lose your job due to imprisonment, negligence, theft from your employer, or if you leave voluntarily, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if you are laid off as part of a cost-reduction strategy, or if you leave your job to care for a sick family member, you are most likely eligible. Including false information on an unemployment application is a form of fraud. While you receive unemployment benefits, you must also actively seek work and accept any reasonable job offer, even if you don't like the position or pay.
Filing for unemployment has both positive and negative consequences. Those who file receive a benefit that can help them stay in their homes, feed their families and pay for needed medical care. If you neglect to file for unemployment and run into trouble in any of these areas, you may need further assistance from the government in the future that can cost the state even more money. When large numbers of people file for unemployment and remain unemployed for extended periods of time, the state's unemployment funds can run low, necessitating a reduction of benefits or borrowing money from the federal government.
Some workers who become eligible for unemployment benefits still choose not to file. This may be a point of pride for workers who don't wish to receive charity and plan to find employment again in the near future. Middle-class workers with a second household income or ample savings who lose their jobs may also choose to forgo filing for unemployment, seeing it instead as a resource that should be reserved for those in serious need. But state guidelines ensure that abuse of unemployment benefits is kept to a minimum, and those who file are only approved to receive what they deserve under the law.