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Unemployment Benefits: Detailed Guide for 2020

Last Update: April 14, 2020

If you belong to the group of individuals that got terminated from employment, you have the right to Unemployment Benefits. If this is a novelty to you, or if you are unsure about anything regarding the subject, this might help.

Nearly 3.3 million people filed first-time claims for unemployment in the last few weeks — shattering the previous record, set in 1982, by around 2.6 million people, according to the Labor Department.

Bank of America projects that number to increase even more, to 5.5 million claims, when the agency announces updated figures tomorrow.

Here’s what Congress just changed:

In its recent stimulus package, Congress made several unprecedented changes to the unemployment insurance program.
Jobless workers will soon get an extra $600 a week on top of their state benefits, for up to four months. That will significantly boost people’s payments.
Lawmakers also added up to 13 weeks of extended benefits, on top of state programs, which vary between up to 12 and 28 weeks.
unemployment benefits guide 2020

Unemployment Benefits

What are Unemployment Benefits and How does the whole thing work?

This is the government’s insurance compensation for those who lost their job but cannot be held culpable for it.

Those who qualify for these benefits are entitled to weekly compensation while they continue their search for a new job. According to SimplyJobs, to qualify for these benefits you need to:

meet certain work and wage eligibility criteria, meet work search requirements and apply for claim benefits each week“.

How much you’ll receive depends on your recent earnings and state in which you live, said Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Benefits range from about $200 to $550 a week, on average, depending on the state, and typically replace about 40% of one’s wages. But Congress just gave those weekly checks a big boost.

Who is eligible?

Anyone who has been employed for a certain period of time, and lost your job, but cannot be held culpable for the very reason.

From March 2020, the new federal law significantly extended unemployment insurance. Many people who were previously not protected, are now qualified.

You are eligible if, due to coronavirus measures, you are in one of the following situations:

  • your employer laid you off (temporarily or permanently)
  • your employer reduced your working hours
  • you are unable to work due to the danger of exposure
  • you are self-employed and have lost income
  • you are in quarantine and unable to work
  • you are taking care of a family member due to coronavirus

If you quit-you have no right for this kind of compensation.

If you get fired, you can apply for compensation if the job termination was not your own fault.

Who pays Unemployment Benefits?

This depends on the state you live in. In some states, you are paying for your insurance fund by paying your taxes while being employed.

In other states, employers and employees both pay for the insurance fund through taxes. However, the United States Department of Labour claims that:

In the majority of states, benefit funding is based solely on a tax imposed on employers. (Three (3) States require minimal employee contributions.)


How to apply?

Once you become unemployed, most states now offer the option to you can fill the application via phone or through the secure state website. United States Department of Labour states:

  • You should select your state and contact the State Unemployment Insurance agency as soon as possible after becoming unemployed. In some states, you can now file a claim by telephone or over the Internet.
  • When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.
  • Generally, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, the state UI agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states. You may also click on the link above to find contact information for all states.
  • It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.   Some states require a one-week waiting period; therefore, the second week claimed is the first week of payment, if you are otherwise eligible.

What do these benefits entail?

The benefits are based on a percentage of your earning on your previous job through a 52-week period.

The payment is usually 26 weeks period long, which is regulated by law in most states. Some States, however, grant you additional benefits for specific purposes.

unemployment benefits application form

You might get help with your job search

Once you file for Unemployment benefits, you may be directed to apply for State Employment Service as well.

This is where you might get help in finding your potential new job. They provide you with useful information and numerous re-employment services free of charge.

You can be referred to various training programs. They provide you with new job openings near your location, or in some other locations if you agree to relocate.

What if You live in one state, and worked in another?

If this is the case, you file for Unemployment in the state you worked in. Regardless of the fact that you lived in another state at the time of employment, or moved after the termination of your employment.

What If You Are Eligible?

To continue your eligibility, you are required to file claims (mostly once a week) where you will answer certain questions, report your weekly earnings as well as possible job offers.

In case you had job offers that you declined, you need to report that as well. It’s mostly done by mail or telephone.  You are required to report to your local Unemployment Insurance Claims Office or One-Stop/Employment Service Office when directed.

In case you fail to do so, you may lose your benefits. Beware that these benefits must be reported on your Federal income tax return.

What If You Are Denied Unemployment Benefits?

According to the United States Department of Labour: “If you are disqualified/denied benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. The State will advise you of your appeal rights. You must file your appeal within an established time frame. Your employer may also appeal a determination if he/she does not agree with the State’s determination regarding your eligibility“.


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