What you need to learn about claiming unemployment advantages after a layoff

Iryna Imago | Istock | Getty Images

A wave of companies including Amazon, Google and Spotify have announced sharp job cuts, leaving former employees without paychecks.

Fortunately, the Unemployment Insurance program, created in 1935, provides assistance to certain individuals who have lost their jobs. The federal program is administered by the states, and rules vary by where you live.

In a handful of states, workers and employers pay into the unemployment insurance program, said Michele Evermore, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. In most cases, only employers pay into the program, but it’s a benefit workers deserve, she said.

For this reason, redundant workers should not be afraid to apply for the help.

More from Personal Finance:
According to the IRS, tax season begins on January 23 for individual applicants
Here are 3 key steps you need to take before the 2023 tax season begins
IRS kicks off 2023 tax season stronger, says taxpayer advocate

How soon after a layoff can I file for unemployment?

“As soon as you leave your job, you should start your journey to unemployment insurance,” Evermore said.

In some states it can take weeks for your claim to be approved. So the sooner you submit, the better.

While most states have a one-week wait before they can start paying benefits, you don’t have to wait to apply for the relief, Evermore said.

Where do I register as unemployed?

Am I entitled to unemployment benefits?

Generally, to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must have been fired through no fault of your own, Evermore said. Maybe the job just wasn’t a good fit for you, or maybe your business was downsized.

But there’s no harm in applying even if you’re not sure you qualify, Evermore said. Many people drop out of the program early, she said: “There are a lot of myths about who qualifies.”

People might be surprised to learn, for example, that in some cases they’re still eligible for unemployment benefits even if they quit, Evermore explained.

For example, in some states you are entitled to the benefit if you decide to leave your job after your employer asked you to relocate to a place where your commute would be too long, or if you had to leave your job because your partner’s place of work has been transferred.

What are the program requirements?

To receive and continue to receive unemployment benefits, you must be able to work and actively seek new employment, Evermore said.

States have different ways to ensure you’re looking for work, she added. In some cases, you are responsible for keeping a job search log, and in other states you must call the state employment office and tell them what jobs you have applied for on a regular basis.

“Some states also allow you to report job seekers online,” Evermore added.

When applying for benefits, make sure you research how to meet all of the requirements in your state.

Is unemployment benefit taxable?

Prapass Pulsub | moment | Getty Images

Yes, Evermore said. Benefits are subject to federal tax and are also levied by most states.

When you start receiving unemployment benefits, your state usually gives you the option to withhold taxes.

“I would always choose that option,” Evermore said. “You could be unemployed for a long time and then be hit with a big tax bill.”

What is the typical weekly benefit?

In the third quarter of 2022, the average weekly unemployment benefit was around $385. But there’s a wide range in payments by state. For example, in Washington state, the benefit during this period was nearly $600. In West Virginia it was around $305.

There are also other resources for people struggling financially due to job losses, Evermore said.

“Unemployment insurance isn’t the only program in the world,” Evermore said, adding that unemployed people can also try to apply for food stamps and other benefits.

How long can I get the benefit?

Yellow Dog Productions | The image database | Getty Images

The standard duration for unemployment benefits is 26 weeks, but this period varies by state.

For example, Missouri recently shortened the benefit period, and some workers there may only receive payments for eight weeks.

I received unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Could I qualify again?

It’s possible, Evermore said.

Workers are typically entitled to unemployment benefits for a certain number of weeks per benefit year. Depending on how long it has been since you were last unemployed and how many weeks previously you were on benefits, there is a chance that you may re-qualify after a subsequent job loss for at least a few more weeks and possibly another full duration.

I received severance pay. Does this affect my unemployment benefits?

In most states, if your layoff included a severance payment, your unemployment benefit is likely to be reduced for the period you still receive payments from your former employer.

But that also depends on your state. In some cases, your severance package won’t affect your unemployment benefits, Evermore said.

Clarification: In a handful of states, workers and employers contribute to unemployment insurance. Employers typically just pay into the program, but it’s a benefit workers deserve. A previous version did not make this distinction.

Comments are closed.