Are Church Employees Eligible For Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment is a one of the most challenging phases of life. It not only affects day to day routine and takes a toll on your financial well being, but also affects mental health to a great extent. If you’re the breadwinner and have a family, you will know the pain joblessness causes. Thankfully in the US, we have a well laid out Unemployment Insurance program that provides up to 26 weeks of unemployment compensation to those who lose their job due to involuntary reasons. This system is jointly administered by the Federal – State set up with funding that is drawn from various sources and includes contribution by the employer on behalf of the employee.

Unemployment Compensation in the US

To facilitate and administer a well maintained compensation system for unemployed citizens, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act(FUTA) has authorized the IRS(Internal Revenue Service) to collect annual taxes from the employer which is later pooled and routed to State Unemployment Agencies for the purpose of funding exclusive UI programs run by each state. Each of the 50 states along with District of Columbia, Puerto Rico & U.S Virgin Islands run their own unemployment insurance programs with dedicated authorities in accordance with the prescribed rules by the United States Department of Labor.

Up to 6 months of regular Unemployment Benefits are paid out to the salaried class who’re out of work due to involuntary reasons such as Layoffs. However not all jobless claimants qualify for the dole. Workers such as Contracted & Seasonal along with Church employees are not generally eligible due to some obvious reasons. The most important reason being, non-payment of unemployment taxes into the system which naturally makes workers in this industry, ineligible. As a leading forum for unemployed workers in the country, we get a good number of questions from jobless church workers who are curious to know if they qualify for the weekly monetary compensation from the government.

A straightforward answer to those laid off from employment in churches is that you do not qualify to receive unemployment compensation simply because churches do not remit taxes that contribute to the corpus. However, there are exceptions. The alternatives have been explained in the next section.

Unemployment Benefits for Church Workers

The root cause of church employees not being outrightly eligible for Unemployment Compensation is simply because churches and religious organizations are exempt from paying unemployment taxes that go as funds into the system as per specific clauses under Unemployment Insurance Act of 1935. Since Unemployment Laws are a state subject, nearly all states exempt churches from paying taxes on behalf of their employees that contribute towards relevant funds. This is the primary reason why church employees cease to qualify. However, if a church decides to have a policy in this regard where they pay unemployment taxes voluntarily, the employee can receive unemployment benefits after separation from the job.

Church Employees Do Not Qualify For Unemployment Insurance

Church Employees Do Not Qualify For Unemployment Insurance

Around 13 diocese in the country voluntarily participate in unemployment programs administered by states by paying taxes through means of specific agreements with state labor authorities. For example, The Richmond, Va., diocese voluntarily pays taxes in the state of Virginia to ensure temporary financial assistance for former employees.

To overcome unavailability of unemployment benefits to church workers, some of them offer a severance package as a part of their Human Resource policy. Such an arrangement helps retrenched employees to manage loss of job for a certain period. A select few purchase employment insurance package through a private insurance to provide compensation.

If you’re someone who works with the church and is being laid off or an acquaintance is facing this situation, be prepared since you will not qualify for state provided unemployment compensation. As a diligent worker, check with the church management or HR representative if there are alternative options that work in your favor. Otherwise, save up for the rainy day and work hard towards finding a job.

It’s quite natural for a former church employee to scout for jobs in the government sector. Recruitment with government agencies is slightly different from that of private and corporate world. The competition is stronger since government jobs are most preferred by job aspirants. There are thousands of job openings in various government agencies, both onshore and offshore in other countries. Your approach towards job search in government sector should be different.


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