Lost Your Job? How to File for Unemployment

May 7th 2016

Though the exact forms and specifics steps may vary by location, all states offer unemployment benefits and require that certain deadlines be met. If you lose your job, file for unemployment following a few basic steps.

Identify Your State Unemployment Insurance Agency

Though the federal government sets the overarching guidelines, each state administers the benefits program according to its own regulations and through its own unemployment insurance agency. This agency is where you must file an unemployment claim. It also can provide you with its eligibility requirements for filing and for receiving benefits.

Determine Eligibility

Not all workers who are out of a job are eligible to collect unemployment benefits. Generally, you must have left your job at no fault of your own. This means if you quit or were fired with just cause, you might not be eligible. You also must meet your state's criteria for earnings and time worked in calculating your ""base period,"" which will be the basis for determining the amount and duration of your benefits.

Gather Your Information

The application you complete and file to claim unemployment benefits requires certain identification and employment history information. To prepare for and expedite the application process, gather all relevant documentation and information before beginning.

Applications generally require that you provide your full legal name, contact information and Social Security number, as well as details about your former employer, such as the company's phone number, the last date you worked there, how much you earned and other relevant information. Have your final paycheck stub handy to help supply accurate details more quickly.

Complete and Submit Your Application

While each state unemployment agency provides its own application forms and offers different methods for completion, all states allow you to complete a paper application in person at an agency-operated office. You also may choose to mail in a paper application. Additionally, many states allow applicants to submit claims over the telephone, and some states provide Internet portals for online submission.

Respond Promptly to Requests

After an agency employee reviews your application for benefits, an agency representative follow-ups with you as required by state law. Some states, such as California, require a telephone interview as the next step in eligibility determination. To avoid missing any important deadlines, be sure to reply as soon as possible to any voice messages or written correspondence from the agency.

Exercise Your Right to Appeal

If the agency determines that you are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you have the right to appeal the decision within a specified time frame. The appeal must be made directly to your state unemployment insurance agency, which is the only entity with the authority to grant or deny benefit claims.

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