Do You Qualify For Unemployment Benefits?

Being unemployed can take a toll on your finances, especially if you’re unaware of benefits designed to help you. These benefits can assist you with everyday expenses while you look to get back on your feet. Take a look at what’s available and how to qualify.

The Basics

Unemployment benefits are government-funded compensation provided to people who are currently out of work. While they are subject to federal law, each state has its own unemployment insurance policies and procedures. As a result, you must check your state’s unemployment website for specific information on how to apply for benefits and what requirements you'll need to meet.

Once you've filed a claim, you'll receive unemployment benefits for a set period, typically 26 weeks. However, in times of high unemployment, the federal government may extend these benefits for an additional 13 weeks. If you're still looking for work after that, you may be eligible for supplemental unemployment through your state.

Eligibility Requirements

There are three requirements from the U.S. government that all applicants must meet:

1. Need To Be Unemployed

If you were fired from your job due to poor performance or other reasons related to your conduct, you are ineligible for unemployment benefits. Similarly, if you quit your job voluntarily, you are also ineligible. However, if you were laid off or had your hours reduced so significantly that it was the same as being laid off, you would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

2. You Worked For A Certain Period

The amount of time you need to have worked to be eligible for unemployment benefits varies by state. In most states, however, it is around 20 weeks. You must also have earned the minimum wage in your state.

3. You Are Actively Job Searching

You cannot simply stop looking for a job and expect to receive unemployment benefits. If you are not actively searching for work, the state may discontinue your benefits or reduce the amount you are eligible for.

Each state has its own requirements for seeking employment and showing proof that you are doing so. Some states require you to certify under oath that you are actively searching, while others insist you make a quota of applications each week.

Check out your state website for further clarification on eligibility requirements.

Unemployment After Quitting

In most cases, you cannot collect unemployment after voluntarily quitting your job. However, there are some instances when it would be possible to leave a job and still claim unemployment benefits.

1. Harassment or Discrimination

Quitting your job due to discrimination, employer retaliation, unwarranted demotion or pay decrease, or a lack of disability accommodations is considered a constructive discharge.

Constructive discharge occurs when an employee is forced to resign due to intolerable working conditions. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must prove that your working conditions were so bad that a reasonable person would have quit in your situation.

2. Personal Matters

If you had to quit your job due to a significant change in your personal life, such as getting married, having a baby, or taking care of a sick relative, you could collect unemployment. To qualify, you'll need proof that the change made it impossible for you to keep working.

3. Illegal Requests

If you are asked to do something illegal, like commit fraud or violate safety regulations, and refuse to quit, you should be able to collect unemployment. To qualify, you'll need documentation showing that you refused to do something illegal and were subsequently forced to resign.

4. Contract Violation

Contractual violations, including pay cuts or changes in job duties, are grounds for quitting, which may make you eligible for unemployment. To qualify, you'll need a copy of your employment contract and evidence that your employer violated its terms. It is always essential to have documentation to go along with your claim.

It's important to note that even if you are eligible for unemployment benefits after quitting your job, collecting those benefits is not automatic. You'll still need to complete the application process and meet all the other eligibility requirements.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to unemployment, it’s never an easy situation. Luckily, each state has benefits to ease the financial burden. Regardless of whether you were terminated or quit, you should always double-check to see if you are eligible for benefits. Depending on where you live and your situation, the answer to what you are entitled to may vary. In many cases, there will be some type of support available.

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