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Applying For Unemployment Benefits After Losing a Job

After you lose a job, you can feel depressed and overwhelmed. It's a natural reaction, as many can feel like a part of their identity has been lost. That coupled with an unwelcoming job market can make job loss very traumatic indeed. The next logical step is often applying for unemployment benefits. However, you will need to act quickly to make sure you get the most out of your unemployment insurance benefits.

Below you will find key information about how to apply for unemployment benefits, how benefits are calculated, and more. Remember, if you believe you have been wrongfully denied unemployment benefits, you should speak with an experienced lawyer to learn more about your options.

For more information, see FindLaw's unemployment insurance section.

Applying for Unemployment Benefits

Since unemployment insurance is managed by each state, the process for applying for unemployment can vary. However, it is generally an easy one intended to be handled without a lawyer.

You'll generally need to fill out a questionnaire with your contact information and the details of your past job and reason for your separation.. Then, someone at your state's labor agency will confirm this information with your past employer. The unemployment officer may ask for proof, like recent pay stubs, or your social security card.

It's best to start this process as soon as possible after losing your job. You cannot begin to receive unemployment benefits until after you file for them and your request is approved, no matter how long ago you lost your job.

How Benefits are Calculated

Again, this varies by state. In general, it's some portion of your average weekly pay for the past two financial quarters, which is roughly six months. Your benefits cannot exceed a cap that is determined by the states.

Receiving Unemployment Benefits

After your state's department of labor (or similar applicable agency) verifies the claim for unemployment insurance, you will start receiving unemployment checks. You should continue receiving benefits each week that you file a continuing claim, which verifies that you are still unemployed and looking for work.

By default, most workers are entitled to 26 weeks of benefits. However, the federal government can decide to extend that in times of economic hardship. In California, for instance, the benefits period is in line with the other states, capped at 26 weeks.

While receiving benefits, you are allowed to work part-time and receive small payments on the side. However, many states will deduct any additional pay you receive, including  severance pay and part-time wages, from your benefits. 

You can't collect disability and unemployment at the same time. If you're collecting SDI (state disability insurance) you would need that to end and your doctor to authorize a return to work before you could collect unemployment. This is because when you sign the certification for unemployment you are certifying that you are able to work, which isn't the case if you're on disability.

Unemployment Benefits During a Pandemic

There is no special unemployment benefit provision that applies during a pandemic. The federal and state governments may, however, enact their own rules and guidance as they see fit. For instance, the federal government has allowed states to expand the eligibility of people to get unemployment benefits amid the COVID 19 pandemic.

Accordingly, employees who are laid off because their employer temporarily shut down the business can file for benefits. The same holds true for people who are under quarantine but expect to go back to work later.

Unemployment Benefits: Additional Resources

Questions About Unemployment Benefits? A Labor Attorney Can Help

Getting denied unemployment benefits can not only be disheartening, it can also cause serious financial stress to you and your family. If you're contemplating applying for benefits and want more information or have applied and been denied, you may want to contact a local employment attorney for assistance.

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