FAQ: Unemployment Benefits - The Basics

Q: What are unemployment insurance (UI) benefits?

A: Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are weekly payments made under state laws designed to provide income support to workers who have lost their jobs involuntarily. Generally state unemployment insurance systems: - Provide up to 26 weeks of benefits - Calculate weekly benefits as a percentage of a worker’s prior wages - fund benefits through payroll taxes on employers

Hide the answer

Q: Where do I apply for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits?

A: Every state (as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) has an agency that administers its UI benefits system. In most states you can apply for benefits by telephone and in some states you can file on-line. Find your state here.

Hide the answer

Q: What is Emergency Unemployment Compensation?

A. Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) is a federally-funded extension program that in most ways operates like regular state UI benefits. The EUC program was enacted by Congress in June 2008 in response to the growing national unemployment rate. EUC has been renewed and expanded a number of times as the nation’s unemployment has worsened. The EUC program is currently structured in the following way: Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) • Tier 1: 20 weeks (All states) • Tier 2: 14 weeks (All states) • Tier 3: 13 weeks (States with 3-month average unemployment rate of 6.0% or higher) • Tier 4: 6 weeks (States with 3-month average unemployment rate of 8.5% or higher) ) Q. What are Extended Benefits (EB)? The Extended Benefits (EB) is an extension program that trigger on additional weeks of eligibility based on a state’s unemployment rate. This pewrmanent program is usually funded on a 50/50 basis between the state and the federal government. However, under the Recovery Act, EB benefits are currently 100% federally-funded. The EB program is currently structured in the following way: Extended Benefits (EB) • 13 weeks for states with a 3-month average unemployment rate of 6.5% or higher • 20 weeks for states with a 3-month average unemployment rate of 8.0% or higher • Note: Extended Benefits (EB) are usually paid after any EUC entitlement but the Governor of each state may elect to pay EB prior to the payment of EUC.

Hide the answer

Q: I was denied benefits – unfairly. What can I do about it?

A: The state's appeal procedure should be explained on the decision document. Appeals should be filed quickly, as the deadline to appeal an agency decision can be as short as 10 days. Some states have nonprofit organizations that offer assistance to individuals experiencing difficulties claiming their benefits.

Hide the answer

Q: Why do we have Unemployment Insurance?

A: Congress established the unemployment insurance program in the 1935 Social Security Act. The goal is to protect individuals and families from the consequences of unemployment. The amount is always less than a regular salary, so that workers are still motivated to find jobs. UI also helps communities and the national economy by lessening the effects of recession. Of all the ways to stimulate the economy during a recession, providing benefits to unemployed workers provides the biggest multiplier effect. Put another way, a dollar spent on unemployment benefits circulates in the economy more than a dollar spent on government purchasing, tax cuts and many other forms of stimulus.

Hide the answer

Q: How is the weekly unemployment insurance benefit rate determined?

A. The formula for calculating a jobless worker’s weekly UI benefit rate is different from state to state. Most states - - identify the worker’s wages in a recent 12 month period known as the “base period” (frequently the first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters), - use the highest quarter(s) to derive an average weekly wage, and - apply a percentage (often 50%) to the average wage. Since every state has a maximum weekly benefit rate, many unemployed workers do not receive a weekly benefit equal to half their pre-layoff wages.

Hide the answer

Q: Do all unemployed workers get benefits?

A. No. Workers with insufficient recent wages may not meet the minimum earnings requirement to qualify for benefits. In addition, workers who were discharged for various forms of misconduct or who voluntarily left employment without good cause may be disqualified under the provisions of state UI law. Unemployed workers who are uncertain if they will qualify should apply for benefits and let the state UI agency determine whether or not they are eligible.

Hide the answer