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When you lose your job and have trouble finding a new one, you may be able to claim unemployment benefits in your state. Unemployment benefits are intended to provide temporary financial relief while you look for other employment. Each state offers unemployment benefits to workers who are no longer working. Even if it has been more than one year since you were employed, you may still be eligible for benefits.
When to File
Although you can file for benefits at any time, you should typically file for unemployment benefits as soon as you become unemployed. This is because unemployment benefits usually start as of that date. The date you file your claim is the date your benefit year starts. In certain states, your first week is considered a waiting week, which means that you don't get a benefits payment that week. The following week is when you begin to receive benefits payments. Filing can typically be done online or over the phone.
To file for unemployment benefits, you must have information regarding your unemployment history. You need to list names, addresses, contact information and your supervisor for your previous jobs. You're also asked why you're no longer employed. Being fired doesn't automatically disqualify or qualify you for benefits. If you have more details, such as the fact that you were fired due to the company losing a contract, provide those details when you apply for benefits.
Benefit Base Period
When determining how much your weekly benefit payment is, the state unemployment office looks at your base period earnings. The base period is defined as the first four of the previous five quarters; in months, this means the first 12 of the past 18 months. Waiting to file for more than a year can result in a lower weekly benefit payment, as only the past 18 months are looked at. If you lost your job more than 18 months ago, you likely won't get any unemployment benefits unless you've been employed since then. The exception to this is if you had no wages due to injury or illness, which qualifies you for an extended base period to include a recent time when you had wages.
Usually unemployment benefits aren't retroactive, which means that filing late doesn't earn you all those previous weeks of benefits as a lump-sum payment. In rare instances, you can win retroactive benefit pay from your state unemployment office; the qualifications for this vary by state. For instance, in California, you may be entitled to back pay of benefits if your employer never told you that you were eligible for benefits. The only way you can ask for retroactive benefits is when you file your unemployment claim by phone.
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Jamie Lisse has been writing professionally since 1997. She has published works with a number of online and print publishers. Her areas of expertise include finance and accounting, travel, entertainment, digital media and technology. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English.