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Do You Qualify for Unemployment Benefits?

Even though the economy is showing signs of improvement, they aren’t large signs, and unemployment remains stubbornly high. Additionally, some companies are still planning layoffs, and you never know when you might lose your job.

Unemployment benefits have been extended [3] a few times in an effort to help those who are unable to find work. If you lose our job, unemployment benefits can help you through the tough times, but you do need to be aware of the requirements that might be placed upon you to qualify.

Are You Eligible to File for Unemployment Benefits?

Your first step is to figure out whether or not the way you left your job qualifies you for unemployment benefits. In order to qualify, you have to meet wage and time period requirements. Most states have an unemployment office, or you can get information from your state’s Department of Labor. In either case, find out what qualifications you have to meet in order to receive unemployment benefits.

Realize, too, that the way you leave your job matters. For the most part, you need to be laid off in order qualify to receive unemployment benefits. Generally, you are not entitled to unemployment benefits if you quit your job. Quitting for school, marriage, self-employment, or even illness are not considered good enough reasons for quitting and collecting unemployment benefits. Additionally, if you are fired for misconduct, or if you are involved in some other dispute, you probably won’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

There are exceptions to this rule, though, if you can prove that you quit for a “good cause.” This usually includes situations of a hostile work environment, or for some other reason. Your state’s unemployment office will decide what constitutes a good cause, and you can usually plead your case.

How Do You Maintain Unemployment Benefits?

Once you begin receiving unemployment benefits, you generally don’t continue to just receive them by virtue of the fact that you are out of work. Indeed, most states require that you meet certain qualifications to receive continued benefits. Generally, you need to be reading, willing, available, and able to work. You are expected to be ready to accept a job, and be physically able to perform work.

Many states also require that you check in with a case worker periodically to ensure that you are actively looking for a job. You may be required to update your resume, and submit it to various jobs. You may be asked to account for which job openings you applied for, as well as other actions you are taking in order to look for a job. Some states even set certain standards for work, and require that you accept jobs that meet those qualifications. If you balk at trying to find a job, or if your contact doesn’t think you are doing enough to find a new job, you might not be able to receive your unemployment benefits, or the amount you receive might be cut.

As you receive unemployment benefits, it’s also important to remember that you are taxed on them [4]. You will need to figure that into your plans; in many cases, it’s important to get off the unemployment rolls as quickly as possible.

(Photo: Sean MacEntee [5])