The last two years have been hard for almost everyone. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. workers have lost their jobs or are not working as many hours as before, and they need help. For this reason, thousands of Americans decided to apply for unemployment benefits. But how to do it? Let’s find it out.
There are numerous benefit programs aimed to help workers who lost their job. Unemployment benefits include unemployment insurance (UI), educational help, and self-employment help.
- Unemployment insurance is a benefit for people who lost their jobs due to a business closing or layoff. This insurance is funded by employers through their taxes; it is not the same as taking money from the government.
- Educational help includes numerous free or low-cost unemployment education and training programs offered by federal agencies.
- Self-employment help is a program for unemployed workers from New York, New Hampshire, Oregon, Delaware, and Mississippi who want to start their own small business.
But how to apply for unemployment benefits?
Check If You Qualify
First, you need to check if you are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance. Each state has its own UI eligibility requirement, but you may qualify if you:
- Have been laid from your job, had been required to quarantine due to COVID-19, or had your hours reduced through no fault of your own. You will not qualify if you were fired for cause because your previous employer may challenge your claim.
- Meet certain wage and work requirements. To qualify for unemployment insurance, you must have earned a minimum amount of wages as a worker and meet the requirements for time worked during a set time, also known as a base period.
- Meet other requirements specific to each state. You can find details of the unemployment insurance program in your state here.
Gather Information About Your Past Jobs
The next step you need to take is to gather information about your past jobs. You should make sure to have copies of your pay stubs because you will have to attach them to your application. The employment agency will need this data to verify your income.
It is also crucial to document any information from your boss or manager about changes in your work situation. You will need to prove that you are eligible for UI benefits, and showing the photos of the “closed” notice hung in the store window or your supervisor’s emails about reducing your working hours is an excellent way to do it.
In addition to documentation confirming your work status and income, you will also need to have the following details ready:
- Home address and mailing address
- Social Security number
- Email address
- Telephone number
- Your bank account number, bank name, bank address, as well as the routing number for direct deposits
- First and last day worked with your previous employer
- Your previous employer’s name, phone number, and address
- Severance package or pension information
- Reason for leaving
File an Unemployment Claim
Now, you are ready to file an unemployment claim. The easiest and quickest way to do it is to file for unemployment online. You can also apply for unemployment by calling the unemployment office or visiting it in person.
Remember that unemployment benefits are paid out by each state, not the federal government. For this reason, you need to apply for unemployment with one of the state agencies. You can find detailed information on how to file for unemployment online and a list of the online filing options for your state on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.
It usually takes about two weeks after you file your unemployment claim to get your first benefit check. This period, also known as the waiting period, is different for each state. However, workers from Wisconsin, Virginia, New York, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania can get their benefits faster, as these states are waiving mandatory waiting periods.
How to Apply for Educational Help
The U.S. Department of Labor offers numerous training programs for unemployed workers. They include:
- The Dislocated Worker Program: This program offers additional resources to support laid-off workers.
- Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA): This program is for workers who lost their jobs due to increased imports or shifts in production outside the U.S.
- The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): This program is designed to help get Americans into high-quality jobs.
You need to contact your local American Job Center to apply for one of the above programs.
Other federal employment and training programs include:
- Youth Program Finder: This allows young workers to find employment programs in their local area.
- Native American Program Finder: Provides training services specific to Native American communities.
- Refugee Assistance Finder: Local programs for refugees that are looking for a job.
- Farmworker Jobs Program Finder: Job training and other employment-related services for seasonally-employed farmworkers.
- Older Worker Program Finder: Part-time employment and training programs for older workers.
How to Apply for Self-Employment Help
The self-employment assistance program is designed to help dislocated workers start their own small businesses and give them the opportunity for early re-employment. Instead of unemployment insurance benefits, States pay a SEA allowance, which can help participants establish their businesses.
To receive self-employment benefits, you must first qualify for unemployment insurance. You are eligible to participate in this program if you have been permanently laid off from your previous job. SEA allowances are similar to unemployment insurance benefits, but you will have to work full-time on starting your business instead of looking for a job.
After becoming unemployed, contact your State’s Unemployment Insurance agency to find out how to get unemployment benefits. At the time you file your unemployment claim, ask whether you can apply for the self-employment assistance program.
The Bottom Line
No one likes losing a job, but you should not think of unemployment benefits as something to be ashamed of.
Unemployment insurance is intended to help Americans when they need it most. So if you have lost your job, file your unemployment claim as soon as possible and get a temporary income flowing back into your pockets.