What are Unemployment Benefits?
Unemployment benefits is a joint federal-state program. It provides temporary benefit payments to employees that are out of a job for getting fired without a reason or being forced to quit. You are paid unemployment benefits for only a few weeks and this differs based on the state that you reside in until you find another job. Sometimes, it could be hard to find another job as there are several unemployed people that have no work for a year or more. Based on these tough economic times, the federal government has passed several extensions that make unemployment benefits available for a longer period of time.
These unemployment benefits are meant to partially replace lost wages. The amount that you receive would be based on what you had earned. States have different formulae to calculate benefit payments but all states would take your prior earnings into account. While others look at the employee’s earnings during the highest paid quarter or two-quarters of the base period.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, the state would have to examine the past wages requirements, the reason for unemployment and availability to work.
States have an upper limit on the total weekly benefit amount. This means that there is a common formula to pay half of what the employee used to earn. In a way, this would be up to a cap that is tied to the average earnings in that state. So the employees with a higher wage would receive a larger benefits check but it is still a percentage of what they used to earn. The amount that an employee would receive differs from each state. Certain states also provide additional benefit amounts to employees with dependents. For instance, $25 or less would be provided per week in addition to the regular benefits.
You should know that unemployment benefits are taxable. This would suggest that up to 10% of your benefit amount would be withheld to pay federal income taxes. In case you earn an income while receiving benefits, they would reduce the amount of benefits that you receive. If you work temporarily then you must report those earnings to the state unemployment agency and they will determine how much of the unemployment benefits would be reduced.
Ensure that you contact your state unemployment insurance department once you are unemployed. They will indicate how much you would expect to receive per week once you are found eligible for unemployment benefits.
When it comes to filing for unemployment, it can be quite difficult. Make sure that you have complete information about unemployment benefits which includes how to apply, eligibility requirements, weekly benefit amount, important phone numbers and much more.
How are Benefits Calculated?
The formula and method to calculate benefits are very state specific. About half of the states use the highest quarter method in which the calendar quarter in which your earnings are the highest is taken into consideration. In other states, your earnings throughout the base period are summed up to check whether or not you’re eligible.
Unemployment is computed and can range from one half of what your weekly pay was at the time of the discharge up to your state’s maximum benefit. You will have to verify with your state’s unemployment office to see what the highest payout for your state is. For further details refer to the unemployment benefits article.
To calculate your weekly benefits amount, you should:
- Work out your base period for calculating unemployment.
- Take a look at the base period where you received the highest pay.
- Calculate the highest quarter earnings with a calculator.
- Calculate what your weekly benefits would be if you have another job.
- Calculate your unemployment benefits for every week if the partial gross income is different.
How Long Will I Receive Benefits?
Usually, most states permit an individual to obtain unemployment for a maximum of 26 weeks or half the benefit year. A benefit year is the period once your claim is established and it will remain open for one year (52 weeks).
A few states have standardized benefit duration, while most have different durations depending upon the worker. In a state with varied duration, it is probable that the benefit year may include less than 26 payable weeks.
The calculation is done using this formula – 26 x WBA or 1/3 BPW. Normally, the smallest amount is considered. WBA is the Weekly Benefit Amount, so 26 x WBA would be the regular weekly program. 1/3 BPW refers to the Base Period Wages, so if a person did not succeed to earn more than 3 times the standard benefit amount, they will be suitable for fewer weeks of coverage.
How Much Will I Receive in Weekly Benefits?
You can calculate your potential benefits online. Your weekly benefit amount and the number of weeks of entitlement are based on the wages you were paid and amount of time you worked during your base period. The weekly benefit amount is calculated by dividing the sum of the wages earned during the highest quarter of the base period by 26, rounded down to the next lower whole dollar. The result cannot exceed the utmost weekly benefit permitted by rule. This is a state-specific parameter and is dependent on the state’s budget and unemployment rate.
The base period is the term used to describe the time frame used as the basis for deciding whether or not you will be monetarily eligible for unemployment.
How to Claim for a Benefits Extension?
If you are presently filing weekly claims for unemployment benefits; carry on filing your weekly claim if you are jobless or are working reduced hours. You will be informed by mail if you are eligible for the added benefits.
Usually, there are two programs that will extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits: Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB). This is beneficial for those that are out of work for a long period. The maximum benefits duration has increased from 26 to 99 weeks in some states.
To be eligible for EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits you must:
- Have an unemployment claim that began on or after May 07, 2006.
- Receive base period wages during the base period of this claim and it should be equal to 40 times of the usual benefit rate.
- Complete withdrawing your usual benefits, have finished your benefit year, or not be eligible for a claim in any state.
- Be unemployed or working reduced hours
- Be able and available for work and looking for work
****The EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) expired on January 1, 2014, and has since not been renewed by the Congress***
To be eligible for Extended Benefits (EB) you must:
- Qualify for EUC and then exhaust all customary UI benefits and all available EUC Tiers.
- Be out of a job or working reduced hours.
- Be seeking work and submitting evidence of work search to DWD.
Please note that EB is currently not available in any state.
How to File An Initial Claim in Your State?
- If you have been separated from work, you can file your initial claim during your first week of total or partial unemployment.
- You can file your first claim in two ways: by calling the TeleClaim Center or visiting a One-Stop Career Center close to you. It might not be possible to file an initial claim online in some states.
- Have your entire information ready before filing your claim.
- If you have received severance pay upon your separation from work, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits. So it is still important to call and file your initial claim during your first week of total or partial unemployment.
- If eligible for unemployment benefits, you can expect to receive your first payment within 3-4 weeks if there are no issues with your claim.
- In general, it takes approximately 3 weeks to process a claim; however, you will still need to claim benefits every week.
The information you need before filing a claim:
- Your Social Security Number
- The year you were born in
- Your home address and telephone number
- Whether you have filed an unemployment insurance claim in your state or in any other state during the past 12 months
- Your last day of employment
- The names and addresses of all of the employers you have worked for during the past 15 months before you file your claim. You will also need the dates you worked for each of these employers. If you are reopening a claim, be ready with the same information for the past 8 weeks.
- The reason that you are no longer working or that your hours have been reduced.
- The names, dates of birth and social security numbers for any dependent children if you are going to apply for dependency allowance.
- Your alien registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen.
If You Are Not a United States Citizen
You must give a verification that you were legally eligible to work in your state and that you are presently eligible to begin a new job.
How to File Your Weekly Claim?
After you file your application for unemployment benefits, you must start filing your weekly claims. You require filing each week, even though you are:
- Waiting for a verdict about benefits,
- Waiting for your claim to become valid, or
- Appealing a denial of benefits
You can file your weekly claim:
- Through the Internet – You can file your weekly claim online. You must have a User ID and PIN in order to file your weekly claim online.
- By phone – You must call the number given to you during the registration process.
- File every week that you want to claim benefits and keep on filing until you go back to work, run out of benefits or stop seeking work. You will receive your unemployment benefits one week after filing the claim.