Have a UI Question? Ask the Expert
Have a Question? Ask Our UI Expert!
Unemployedworkers.org is a project of the National Employment Law Project, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for working families. If you have a question related to unemployment insurance, please look at the frequently asked questions below to see if your question has already been answered.
If not, feel free to complete our unemployment benefits question form below and we will do our best to answer your question directly or revise the frequently asked questions to address your issue. Please be sure to include your residing state and the state where you were employed if they are not the same. Any important background information that would allow us to adequately answer your question should also be included. If you don’t hear back from us, check back on this page for a frequently asked question that might address your needs.
We cannot provide legal advice or representation. Therefore, we do not provide assistance with unemployment appeals. If you require legal advice, please visit www.lawhelp.org for information on legal services provided in your area.
Health Insurance Premium Assistance (COBRA)
Congress passed legislation that provides 15 months of premium assistance for people laid off between September 1, 2008, and May 31, 2010. The most recent extension does not provide additional months of COBRA assistance on top of the current 15 months; however, for those individuals currently receiving the COBRA subsidy your benefits will not terminate prior to collecting all 15 months of the subsidy.
To learn more about the COBRA subsidy visit the US Department of Labor COBRA page http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html and the FAQ page http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-cobra-premiumreductionEE.html. To receive COBRA benefits, workers must be involuntarily terminated from employment. View page 7 of this IRS guidance to see if you fit the definition: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-09-27.pdf. If you were denied help from the COBRA premium plan and want to appeal the denial of benefits please click here http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/COBRA/main.html.
UI Frequently Asked Questions
Please see commonly used unemployment insurance terms to the left.
1. Q: Which individuals are eligible for federal extended benefits?
A: Unfortunately, only individuals that exhausted all rights to regular state unemployment compensation after May 1, 2007 are eligible for federal extended benefits- thus it’s only available to individuals who were laid off as of May 1, 2006.
2. Q: Is extending the filing deadline of key UI programs on Congress’ radar?
A: On July 22, 2010, the President signed into law H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. This legislation extends the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) programs through November 30, 2010. It also includes an “EUC Fix” that is intended to remove the disincentive for unemployed workers to take part-time or temporary work while collecting unemployment benefits.
3. Q: Does the new legislation provide the same benefits as the previous legislation?
A: The bill does not include an extension of the $25-a-week Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) funds. No new unemployment benefits claim effective on May 30, 2010 or later will have the additional $25 FAC entitlement attached to it. Any claimant who had a new state UI benefit year established before May 30, 2010 can continue to collect FAC in conjunction with any benefits associated with that benefit year, whether it is state unemployment benefits, EUC or EB. They can continue to collect FAC until benefits are exhausted, but not beyond the week ending December 11, 2011.
4. Q: When will I start to receive benefits again?
A: The state agencies that administer the unemployment programs are already working to get the benefits back up and running. Unfortunately, it is going to take most states about 2-4 weeks to get benefit payments started again. Some states may be faster, particularly those that have had workers continue to certify their continuing availability for work.
Rather than calling your state agencies, we recommend that you check their websites frequently for updated information. You can access your state UI page http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2010/State.UI.Web.Pages.pdf?nocdn=1.
5. Q. Are benefits retroactive to the date the program lapsed?
A: Yes, benefits should be paid retroactively to the week after benefits were cut off.
6. Q: Does this extension of the filing deadline provide additional weeks of federal unemployment benefits on top of the total 99 weeks?
A: No, the new legislation does not create additional weeks of benefits after you have exhausted all benefits currently at law (regular state benefits, Tiers 1-4 of EUC and EB). Extending the filing deadline simply changes the date that the EUC program will begin to phase out from June to November.
If you have exhausted all your benefits, Congress will have to draft legislation that provides additional weeks of benefits in order for you to receive additional weeks of benefits. You should reach out to your members of Congress and let them know how important additional weeks of unemployment benefits are for you and your family.
7. Q: What is the complete breakdown of all unemployment benefits available? What is EUC? What is EB?
A: If you do not know what tier of benefits you are collecting, you can refer to any documentation provided by your unemployment agency. You can also call the agency for information about your individual claim.
Regular State Benefits
- 26 weeks
Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC)
- Tier 1: 20 weeks
- Tier 2: 14 weeks
- Tier 3: 13 weeks
- Tier 4: 6 weeks (for states with an average unemployment rate of 8.5% or higher over the past three months)
Extended Benefits (EB)
- 13 weeks for states with an average unemployment rate of 6.5% or higher over the past three months (total 92 weeks)
- 20 weeks for states with an average unemployment rate of 8.0% or higher over the past three months (total 99 weeks)
Note: Benefits are usually paid in this order but the Governor of each state may elect to pay EB prior to the payment of EUC.
8. Q: Is my state paying Tier 4 benefits?
A: As of July 25, 2010, the following states qualify for Tier 4 benefits: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The following states do not qualify for Tier 4 benefits: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
Note: New Mexico, New York and Wisconsin trigger off Tier 4. The three-month average seasonally-adjusted total unemployment rate (TUR) in New Mexico, New York and Wisconsin fell below the 8.5% threshold necessary to qualify for EUC Tier 4. Thus, the payable period in the Fourth Tier will conclude for New Mexico and Wisconsin on August 14, 2010, and in New York on August 15, 2010.
9. Q: Is my state paying Extended Benefits (EB)?
A: The following states qualify for 13 weeks of EB: Kansas, Minnesota and Virginia.
The following states qualify for 20 weeks of EB: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The following states do not qualify for EB: Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.
**This information was last updated July 25, 2010
**For additional and updated information, you can access your state’s unemployment insurance page here http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2010/State.UI.Web.Pages.pdf?nocdn=1.
10. Q: I have received a decision from my state unemployment agency that I feel is incorrect, what should I do?
A: You should pay very close attention to deadlines regarding appeals provided on any documentation you receive from your state unemployment agency. If you disagree with information in the document, you are given a very short time to appeal. Some states give deadlines of 10, 20 or 30 days to appeal an agency decision. Follow the directions on the document and appeal the decision as soon as possible. If you need help, your local Legal Aid office may be of service to you.
11. Q: By what date must I exhaust benefits in order to move on to the next tier of federal benefits?
Regular State Benefits: Claimants can establish initial eligibility for EUC (Tier 1) if they exhaust the 26 weeks of regular state benefits before the week ending November 20, 2010. In order to establish eligibility for federal EUC benefits, an individual must have no rights to regular compensation. This means that you must have exhausted regular state benefits and establish eligibility by having a week of unemployment that would be EUC payable. When an individual exhausts regular state benefits on or before November 20, 2010, the individual would be establishing eligibility for EUC the following week, beating the November 20th deadline. If individuals exhaust their regular state benefits after December 19, 2010 they can collect the Tier 1 benefits only if Congress has further extended the ARRA.
Emergency Unemployment Compensation: In order to move to the next tier of benefits, claimants must exhaust their current tier by the week ending November 27, 2010. If individuals exhaust their current tier after December 26, 2010, there will be a gap in unemployment benefits until Congress returns from recess and restarts the EUC program.
12. Q: I recently started collecting unemployment benefits. I am aware that some individuals have collected up to 99 weeks of UI, why can’t I collect 99 weeks?
A: Some states do not have a 3-month average unemployment rate high enough to be eligible for the full 99 weeks of benefits available. Thus, the total number of weeks available to certain claimants is less than 99 (See Question 4).
Also, collecting federal benefits has become complicated because the program has certain deadlines that Congress must extend in order for you to collect the maximum number of weeks available to your state. Collecting the maximum number of weeks available to your state is no longer guaranteed, it is now contingent upon Congress extending the filing deadline.
In order to move from state benefits to federal benefits, individuals must have exhausted their state benefits on or before November 20, 2010. In order to move from one tier of federal benefits to another, individuals must have exhausted their current tier on or before November 27, 2010. These set deadlines do not permit everyone to collect 99 weeks of benefits, however, as Congress continues to extend the deadline individuals will get closer to the 99 week mark.
13. Q: If I did not qualify for the total 26 weeks of state benefits due to lack of wages in my base period, will I be able to receive federal extensions?
A: If you did not have enough wages in your base period, your regular state benefits will be reduced and each tier of federal benefits will be reduced accordingly. If your state benefits were reduced to 13 weeks or fewer, you may not qualify for federal benefits.
14. Q: I just collected state unemployment benefits, but now I am being told that I do not qualify for federal benefits due to lack of wages. Is this information correct?
A: This information is correct. In order to qualify for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC Tiers 1-4), individuals must have had employment of 20 weeks of work, or the equivalent in wages, in their base periods.
15. Q: Do aliens qualify for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC Tiers 1-4)?
A: In order to qualify for EUC for a week, the alien must be authorized to work in the United States for that week.
16. Q: I have just been informed that my benefit year is about to end, does this mean I am ineligible for further unemployment benefits?
A: No. Every 52 weeks, your state is required to check whether you have earned enough wages during the previous year, either through part-time or full-time work, to qualify for a new unemployment claim. If you qualify for new regular state benefits and your weekly benefit amount is either $100 or 25% less than your current weekly benefit amount, then you will continue collecting EUC on your first claim.
If you qualify for a new regular state benefits claim but your weekly benefit amount is not $100 or 25% less than your current weekly benefit amount, then you will start a new regular state benefits claim for 13-26 weeks, then move back to your first EUC claim at the higher rate.
Please see more information on the EUC Fix here http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2010/Final.EUC.Fix.QA.pdf?nocdn=1.
17. Q: If I have an interstate claim, how do I determine the amount of EUC that I am entitled to receive?
A: The level of EUC benefits you’re entitled to is determined by the status of the state that you are filing against (the state where you worked), not the state where you are currently located. Therefore, if the state where you worked has “triggered on” to Tier 4 EUC because it has a high unemployment rate, you are eligible for the additional 20 weeks of benefits, regardless of the unemployment rate in the state where you live.
The reverse is also true, if you currently live in a state that has triggered on to Tier 4 but the state you are filing against has not, you are not entitled to the additional 20 weeks.
18. Q: If I have an interstate claim against a state that has “triggered” on to EB, but the state where I live has not triggered on, how much EB should I receive?
A: You should receive 2 weeks of Extended Benefits (EB). The EB Program has different rules than the EUC benefits you were receiving before. Under the law governing EB, if you live in a state that has not “triggered on” to EB, you can only receive a maximum of 2 weeks of EB payments.
Although you may appear to be eligible for up to 13 or 20 weeks of EB based on the EB status of the state where you worked, the state is prohibited from paying you more than 2 weeks of benefits if you have moved to a low-unemployment state that has not triggered on to EB. However, if the state where you are living later triggers on to EB, you are entitled to collect the rest of your benefits.
19. Q: If I live in a state that has triggered on to EB, but the state that I am filing against has not triggered on, how much EB should I receive?
A: You are not entitled to EB if the state you are filing against has not triggered on to EB, even if the state where you live has triggered on. The maximum level of benefits you are eligible to receive is determined based on the EB status of the state where you worked.
20. Q: I have been working a short term contract position as an independent contractor, will this defeat my chances of collecting unemployment benefits again?
A: If the assignment you took is truly as an independent contractor, it should not result in a new benefit year with a lower benefit rate because those earnings are not covered wages that can be used to requalify for a new claim.
Caution: Sometimes the employer says it is an independent contractor relationship, but the unemployment insurance agency might investigate and determine it was actually employment and the earnings are treated as wages. This usually only happens if the claimant actually questions it, however.
21. Q: Will my pension reduce my unemployment benefits?
A: It is our understanding that states are prohibited from reducing unemployment compensation (UC) due to nontaxable distributions but they are permitted to reduce UC payments due to taxable distributions. In general, a distribution from an eligible retirement plan is not includible in gross income when the taxpayer “rolls over” the distribution to another eligible retirement plan within 60 days.