The federal and state governments cooperatively administer the unemployment insurance program. It provides partial weekly benefits to involuntarily unemployed workers (those ill-suited for the job, laid off or whose employer went of business). Claimants must actively seek work and be ready, willing and able to accept a job. The program includes residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
Filing a Claim
File your unemployment claim with your state's unemployment insurance agency, such as the labor or employment security departments, as soon after becoming unemployed as you can. Many states allow filing online or by telephone. You need contact information and employment dates for your previous employers, as well as your Social Security number. Most states require a one-week waiting period before receiving benefits. Continue filing your claim even if you haven't yet received benefits. If your claim is approved, you will receive back payments.
Weekly Benefit Amount
Weekly unemployment insurance benefits vary according to wages earned in your base year, usually the first four of five calendar quarters prior to your job loss. States typically set their own minimum and maximum benefit amounts within those parameters. Benefits usually replace between 50 and 70 percent of what you were earning. You can claim benefits during your entire benefit year, starting from when you became unemployed, but most people have only enough benefits in their account to last 26 weeks. Working part time while collecting benefits can extend that length of time.
When Your Benefit Year Ends
Your unemployment insurance claim lasts for one year from the time you file your application. If you do not have enough money in your unemployment insurance account to last the entire year, then you can apply for the federal Extended Unemployment Compensation or state-federal Extended Benefits programs. When your benefit year ends, you must file a new unemployment insurance claim and be approved to continue receiving benefits.
Once your new application is approved and your new benefit year begins, you must continue filing claims to receive benefits. You also must continue meeting your state's job search requirements including attending any job search reviews.