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How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Jacky Hayward | Monster Evolutions

Once you have been laid off, one of the first things you are likely to think about is how you are going to replace your income. Unemployment Insurance (UI) was established by the government to provide unemployment benefits to workers when become unemployed due to factors outside their control to financially assist them while they are looking for employment. UI is a joint federal-state program with money coming from the federal and state governments but the administration coming from the state, so the rules determining eligibility vary as well as the benefits received depending on the state in which you live. This article is thus intended to serve as a general guide to unemployment insurance.

What to Expect when Applying for Unemployment Insurance

To apply for unemployment insurance, you must first contact your state’s unemployment agency. Career One Step has a map of all the state unemployment agencies, which will be a good place to find out more about your state’s agency. With the increase in layoffs, there has also been an increased number of individuals requesting unemployment insurance. Many unemployment offices are holding longer hours but there is still a backlog. In this manner, if your state unemployment agency allows you to, applying online will likely expedite the application process.

Once you have applied for unemployment insurance, most states will verify your unemployment in some way; this may mean a short phone interview, an in person interview with an unemployment officer, or further verification via USPS mail. After your unemployment department has received your claim and all necessary verification, they will calculate your unemployment benefits on your past salary, usually using your last year and a half of salaried time. Your UI benefits will be proportional to your past salary, but will often cap out at a certain point, depending, again, on your state. In addition, it is likely it will take a few weeks for you to receive your first unemployment check after your local agency has received all the necessary materials.

What to Keep in Mind Once you Have Applied

Once you start receiving checks, each week or every other week you will have to complete questionnaire to prove that you are in fact searching for a job; after all, unemployment insurance is intended to assist you in your job search

In addition, unemployment benefits are taxable. You can elect to have a specified amount withheld each check, but you will be responsible to pay taxes on the income earned come the next tax year, so plan appropriately!

How Obama’s Stimulus Plan will help Unemployment Insurance

Obama’s stimulus plan is still being debated in the Senate, but, in its present state, the stimulus package aims to provide $62 -$76 billion to state fiscal relief in order to compensate for decreasing state budgets. State governments pay in part for unemployment benefits and state run health care programs. With the downturn in the economy, state and local governments will need to increase taxes in order to continue these public services without aid of the federal government; the goal of the stimulus is to keep taxes low while allowing state governments to continue to provide unemployment benefits and other state run programs.

In addition, the current stimulus plan provides $36 billion to states to budget through December 2009. This allotted money will increase unemployment benefits by $25 per week. Further, the stimulus proposal includes suspending taxes on the first $2,400 of these benefits.

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