Losing your job sucks and if you recently lost yours, I’m sorry to hear that but you are not alone (in May 2008, 861,000 joined the already 8.5 million unemployed, which is always undercalculated*). However, we live in the land of opportunity and there’s always something around the corner, so until that corner turns you should consider filing for unemployment benefits.
When people talk about unemployment benefits, you’re really talking about the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program and it’s a program you’ve been indirectly paying into with each and every paycheck. Your employer has to pay an unemployment insurance tax that you make claims against if you are eligible (and unemployed). You indirectly pay for the insurance because in the absence of that tax, you could theoretically be paid more (feel free to debate the merits of that argument on your own, either way it’s money that’s rightfully yours if eligible).
The eligibility requirements and benefit payouts vary from state to state. The US Department of Labor has a very handle list of all the state departments, along with address, phone number and website, to help you in your search and claims filing. You can also use this map to locate the proper office to contact.
File today. As soon as you lose your job, file immediately. There is often a two week lag between when you file and when you receive benefits, though benefits are effective as soon as you file (if you are eligible).
It has no bearing on you as an employee. In fact, being eligible for unemployment benefits couple a positive. One of the reasons for denying a claim is misconduct. Though it’s unlikely that an prospective employer would ever find out that you did receive unemployment benefits, if they did they could be reasonably sure that you didn’t get released because of misconduct.
It won’t affect your credit score. Collecting unemployment will have no bearing on your credit history or your score. If you do apply for a loan, it would be reported as unstable income which could cause you not to get a loan. However, if you think about it, unstable income is better than no income so you probably have a better shot at a loan with the benefits.
You need it. Even if you’re in solid financial shape, the reality is you don’t know how long you may be out of work. You may be great now, able to live off your emergency fund for a few months, but eventually your bank account will begin to dwindle. As the balance falls, you will be feeling more pressure at a time when pressure will already be at its highest. It’s important to swallow your pride, get yourself some additional breathing room, and file for benefits that are rightfully yours. Remember, it’s not welfare; it’s unemployment insurance your employer has been paying for.
If you’re reluctant to take a hand out, take it now and consider donating that amount to your favorite charity when you get back on your feet. Good luck.