How to Qualify for Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Before attempting to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, applicants are recommended to learn about the eligibility requirements to see if they qualify.

Unemployment insurance (UI) is intended to provide monetary assistance to out-of-work Americans that meet the program’s qualification guidelines, usually in the form of direct deposit.

These benefits act as a substitute for the regular wages a worker would have earned.

By providing this financial assistance, unemployed Americans can focus more of their efforts on their search for new employment, instead of worrying about the cost of rent and other living expenses.

However, the United States unemployment insurance program does not offer benefits to individuals who have been terminated from their job for a reason that was their own fault.

Some reasons for a job termination that are valid for unemployment insurance include a significant reduction of hours, layoffs or company closures.

While other government assistance programs consider a beneficiary’s financial need when distributing benefits, unemployment insurance is based on work-based factors.

Some of these factors include taxes paid, salary earned and the amount of time the beneficiary was employed. They do not require an applicant to have a good credit score.

Learn more about who qualifies for unemployment and some of the common eligibility requirements for benefits.

Who can get benefits from unemployment insurance?

Typically, unemployment benefits are only offered in the state where the applicant last worked.

Since each state is in charge of administering its own unemployment insurance, the eligibility requirements may vary from state to state.

However, the unemployment insurance program is run cooperatively between the federal and state governments, so there are some guidelines that also apply nationally.

Some of the federal eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance include:

  • Applicants must have been terminated from their position due to no fault of their own. A few common reasons include:
    • Downsizing leading to layoffs
    • Company closure
    • Reduction of available work hours
  • Any terminations due to misconduct will be considered ineligible for UI benefits.
  • Applicants must be actively seeking a new job.
  • Applicants must be physically able to work.
  • When offered a job, applicants must be willing and able to accept the position.

Note: If you were let go from your job and the employer is looking for a replacement employee, you may not be eligible for unemployment insurance.

What types of workers can qualify for unemployment benefits?

Workers in almost every type of job can be eligible for unemployment benefits if they are to ever lose their employment due to a reason that is not their fault.

Unfortunately, workers who are considered independent contractors usually do not qualify for unemployment insurance.

Essentially, this is because independent contractors typically have tax withholdings on things such as income tax and unemployment insurance.

This means that independent contractors are not allocating a portion of their wages for unemployment insurance.

On the other hand, there are some workers who are not eligible for benefits from unemployment insurance because they already receive assistance from other government programs.

For example, railroad workers receive financial assistance and compensation through the Social Insurance for Railroad Workers program.

Also, retired military service members and federal employees receive federal compensation and do not have to rely on compensation from state funds.

Learn About State Requirements for Unemployment Benefits

In order to receive any benefits from unemployment insurance, you are required to meet your state’s eligibility guidelines in addition to the federal guidelines.

Each state has its own rules for eligibility that are usually based on the amount of time or wages earned by an unemployed applicant.

Fortunately, workers who have lost a stable, long-term job will usually meet their state’s minimum work time and wage requirements.

Be sure to contact your state’s unemployment insurance office and ask about any state-specific requirements for filing an unemployment claim.

In addition to prior work requirements, recipients of unemployment insurance are required to be actively looking for a new job.

Unemployed workers who decide to go back to school will not be eligible for unemployment benefits because they are technically not seeking employment at the moment.

Some states offer some additional job-searching time for beneficiaries who are seeking training to work in high-demand fields.

In fact, Washington and Oregon allow participants to receive benefits without actively searching for a new job, as long as they are enrolled and making satisfactory progress in a professional or technical training program.

What You Need to Know When Filing for Unemployment

Although the specific requirements may vary from state to state, there are certain tips that are helpful to know when you file for unemployment.

For example, workers who are laid-off are encouraged to file for unemployment insurance as soon as possible.

This is because the unemployment insurance claims filing process is long and drawn out.

The earlier that applicants began to apply for their unemployment benefits, the better it will be overall.

Even unemployed workers who do not think they will qualify are encouraged learn the application rules and apply.

Often, applicants will not be eligible when they begin the application process, but that can potentially change over time.

It is also important to ensure that all of the information provided on the application is accurate in order to prevent delays.

Applicants should also be aware that they have the right to file an appeal if their claim is denied.

For more information on state-specific eligibility requirements, applicants are encouraged to contact their state’s unemployment insurance agency.

How to Maintain Your Unemployment Insurance

When an unemployed worker begins to collect benefits, they must file weekly or biweekly claims with the unemployment agency.

During these weekly reports, beneficiaries will provide details about their job hunt, job offers, and additional earnings from part-time work.

Beneficiaries must also provide an explanation if they ever refuse a job. Many state programs also encourage participants to attend job training sessions to increase their chances of finding employment.

While beneficiaries are receiving unemployment insurance assistance, it is important to remember that their benefits are subject to federal income taxes.

Beneficiaries are required to report their unemployment benefits on their federal tax returns.

Participants of unemployment are required to attend numerous in-person meetings, career training sessions and job interviews while they receive benefits.