Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

Author : Ray

Updated : June 21st, 2019

Eligibility for unemployment insurance is determined by state law. More than half of jobless workers do not claim unemployment benefits because either they do not qualify or feel the filing process to be very complex. Contrary to this, numerous people meet the criteria for benefits and state unemployment offices have also reduced the amount of necessary paperwork over a period of time. This article will make eligibility criteria clear for filing unemployment benefits.

Want to know if you are eligible? Use our Eligibility Calculator

Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

eligibility requirements

Based on your state there may be eligibility requirements for unemployment coverage including having worked for a definite period of time. The Job Service may need job seekers to apply for jobs, submit resumes, and not turn down a position if it meets certain standards.

Other Eligibility Factors to determine benefits are:

  • Must be monetary eligible
  • Past earnings activity (labor force attachment)
  • Conditions of job separation
  • Be totally or partially unemployed
  • If you are identified as likely to tire out unemployment benefits and are registered in the worker profiling and reemployment services program, you have to fully participate in all assessment interviews, orientation, and referred reemployment services.

The State Job Service Offices are brilliant resources to aid with a job search. Many free services are provided including career counseling, job listings, resume and cover letter writing help, and training. Take benefit of the assistance state job service offices can give you –it will make your job easier.

Monetary Eligibility

Estimate Benefits
Unemployment Calculator

After filing an initial application for Unemployment Insurance benefits, you will obtain a Determination of Unemployment Compensation with facts about your monetary eligibility. The monetary determination is not an assurance of payment. It is to give advice to you and your employer that a claim for benefits has been filed, if qualified, what the weekly benefit rate will be and upon which earnings that rate is based.

Use our unemployment calculator to determine your eligibility.

Example 1:

Let’s take an example from the state of California. Anyone may file a claim for jobless benefits in California. However, not all those who file will be entitled. In order to be qualified you must first have adequate work and earnings to set up a claim (what’s recognized as Monetary Eligibility). The wages may be from work in California only, in California and another state(s), or from work with the federal government or U.S. military service in any state.

If in doubt, file the claim and allow the Employment Development Department (EDD) make the conclusion. If you cannot establish a valid California claim the EDD will tell you what your options are for getting a valid claim.

California glances at earnings grouped by calendar quarter. A quarter consists of three precise months; January, February, and March from the 1st quarter of the year, and so on. By law, the Employment Development Department can only employ the four quarters that ended before the last quarter to assess earnings. These four earnings are called the Base period of the claim; it is the only period of earnings that can be used to decide present eligibility.

How the Base Period is Determined?

Wages are drawn from a one-year period (four calendar quarters) to compute eligibility. This one-year period is called the Base Period.

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: January, February, or March – The Base Period will be the first nine months (Jan-Sept) of last year and the last three months (Oct-Dec) of the year before last;

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: April, May, or June – The Base Period will be all twelve months (Jan-Dec) of last year;

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: July, August, or September – The Base Period will be the first three months of the current year (Jan-Mar) and the last nine months (Apr-Dec) of the last year;

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: October, November, or December – The Base Period will be the first six months (Jan-June) of the current year and last six months (Jul- Dec) of the last year.

The quarter you file and the previous quarter (the months in red and white) do NOT count at all toward the Base Period, regardless of how much you earned. Neither does any time before the Base Period, even if you worked for fifty years. Benefits are only depending on the Base Period, which is, in turn, decided by the date you file for benefits.

Example 2:
Let’s consider the earnings requirements in California for example
You can establish a legal claim in two ways in the state of California:

  • Earn no less than $1300 in any one quarter of the Base Period, or
  • Earn no less than $900 in your uppermost quarter of earnings during the Base Period plus in the rest of the Base Period earn no less than 25% of the highest quarter earnings.

For instance, if you received $1000 in your highest quarter, the claim would only be legal if your total earnings all through the other three quarters amounted to $250, for a Base Period total of $1,250:

$1000 + (25% x $1000) = $1250 in total Base Period earnings.

So even though you earned $100,000 in your highest quarter, but did not earn as a minimum $25,000 all through the rest of the Base Period, you would not be qualified! Or if you only earned $899.99 in each quarter, you will fail by one penny. That is the rule.

When you file a claim the EDD will send back you a printed copy of the determination of monetary eligibility. Test out cautiously to settle on if your employer(s) reported your earnings properly. You can constantly request a recomputation if the data appears wrong.

EDD will also offer the following information:

  • The beginning and ending date of the claim
  • Weekly Benefit Amount
  • Maximum Benefit Amount

Weekly Benefit Amount

The sum of money to which a claimant may be entitled each week, based on the claimant’s covered wages paid during the base period.

Let’s consider an example from the state Mississippi:

The maximum Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) allowed in Mississippi at this time is $235.00. Your WBA for unemployment insurance benefits depends on the total wages in the highest quarter of your Base Period and by dividing that amount by 26. The minimum WBA in Mississippi is $30.00. To estimate your WBA you must first determine what your wages are for the highest quarter during your Base Period.

To be eligible for benefits, you:

  • Must have worked in no less than two quarters of your base period,
  • Must have earned no less than $780.00 in the highest quarter of your base period, and
  • Must have earned 40 times your WBA in your base period.

The highest amount of benefits that can be paid to you during your Benefit Year is 26 times your WBA, or one-third of your total Base Period wages, whichever is the lesser.

If you file a claim for benefits and it is determined that you do not have enough wages in your base period to be eligible, you may reapply again after the quarter changes, if you are still jobless. The quarters used to decide the base period change every three months, on the first Sunday of January, April, July, and October.

Who can be claimed as a dependent?

If you do not meet the criteria for the maximum weekly benefit rate, you may be entitled to a dependency allowance. Dependant’s allowance is additional money added to a claimant’s weekly benefit amount if the claimant supports a dependent.

If you would like to claim a dependency allowance when you file your claim, you will be inquired to give the social security numbers of your dependent children.

Your dependent child or children must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Under 18 years of age.
  • Under 21 years of age and a full-time student.
  • A mentally or physically handicapped child of any age

You are required to give proof of dependency.

While you are receiving benefits, you must inform DUA (Department of Unemployment Assistance) if there is any change in the number of your dependent children or in your status of providing support. In total, 12 states pay dependency allowance.

For Example:

Total dependency allowance for Connecticut cannot be paid for more than five dependents ($75). California does not pay dependency allowances.

When to File for Unemployment?

Filing for unemployment must be the initial item on your plan when you have been laid-off. It might take a few weeks to collect a check, so the quicker you file, the faster you’ll get paid. A delay in filing will mean a wait in collecting unemployment benefits.

How to Claim Your Benefits?

In order to obtain unemployment compensation, workers must meet the unemployment eligibility requirements for wages earned or duration worked during an established (one year) period of time. Besides, workers must be firm to be unemployed through no fault of their own, so if you were fired or quit you may not be qualified for unemployment compensation.

Confirm with your State Unemployment Office for briefing on what benefits you are entitled to. You may be able to file over the phone. In various states, you can file online for unemployment.

In general, to file a claim you will need:

  • Social Security Number
  • Alien Registration Card if you’re not a US citizen
  • Mailing address including zip code
  • Phone number
  • Names, addresses and dates of employment of all your past employers for the last two years

Disqualification from Unemployment

The following conditions may disqualify you from collecting unemployment benefits depending on state law:

  • Quit without good cause
  • Fired for misconduct
  • Resigned because of illness (check on disability benefits)
  • Left to get married
  • Self-employed
  • Caught up in a labor dispute
  • Attending school

Check with the Unemployment Office if you have the above or any other special circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions For Eligibility Criteria

Can I collect for voluntary termination of a job?

Yes, if the reason for leaving is justifiable and related to work or, in some circumstances, to domestic issues. Check with your state’s employment security office for clarification.

Will I qualify for unemployment if I was allowed to resign but received a severance package?

If you quit or get fired, then you are not eligible. Only hope is that you explain the situation to unemployment office (after you lose the job) and they consider your case under “good cause” provision.

If I start collecting social security does this stop my unemployment?

Unemployment insurance benefits are not counted under the Social Security annual earnings test and therefore do not affect your receipt of Social Security benefits. However, the unemployment benefit amount of an individual may be reduced by the receipt of a pension or other retirement income, including Social Security and Retirement benefits.

You should contact your state unemployment office for information on how your state applies the reduction.

Are elected officials eligible for unemployment compensation when terminated by a different employer?

The law does not allow using some types of wages to establish claims which include working as an elected official. Hence, may not be eligible to claim the benefit.

Can I file a claim if I already lost a week’s pay from my job?

Yes, because most states pay unemployment compensation benefits based on the amount of earnings for a particular week. However, it all depends upon your weekly benefit amount and, possibly, other factors. File the claim and see.

If I was contracted to work through a company and was let go due to loss of work can I file for unemployment?

Periods of self-employment don’t generally qualify for unemployment insurance claiming, as you’re not paying into the system. The other question likely is, do you qualify based upon your earnings from ex-employment other than the self-employment income? Depending on these factors it will be decided whether you are eligible or not.

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  1. Hi, my job is being eliminated and I will be retiring at the end of March 2020. I have a part time job, and I would like to know if I can collect unemployment, if so how many hours or how much money a week can I make. Thank you

  2. hello I have never filed before and I need money to pay bills . I was recently let go of a job. plus I need a job but one suited in my retail/grocery career. I have been in that business for twenty years, need to get back to it. I was let go a company called rural king a farm store not retail . so please help me get unemployment or a job back in retail/grocery business would be thankful to you.

    1. Ben,

      If you’ve lost the job due to involuntary reasons, you can be eligible to claim UI benefits until you find employment. You can apply for weekly benefits over the internet or by phone.

  3. Last May after a 40 year career I accepted a package from my employer because they were doing away with my position. I am being paid until the end of May 2018 and have been looking for a new job for over 6 months. I didn’t file UI last year thinking I would find something pretty quick. Is there a time limit on claiming UI?

    1. Debbie,

      Though there isn’t a prescribed timeline, I suggest you file it at the earliest after your severance payout is complete.

  4. How do I file for unemployment and I live in GUAM? Was working full-time for 7 years for a company that closed its location here after 20 years of establishment.

    1. Amanda,

      You may not be eligible for unemployment insurance is only extended to those who become unemployed due to involuntary reasons.

  5. id like to claim disability benefits but need help i live in oregon so could you send me approprate forms by email ty

    1. Janet,

      We suggest you visit the official website of the Unemployment Office in your state and make a claim online for hassle-free management of claims.

  6. If I was requalified for benefits two months before benefit year ends how do I recertify my unemployment claim because I earned much higher wages since my initial claim application date and was previously disqualified so I may receive a higher benefit amount based off the new benefit year? My claim benefit claim year ends 6-18-18 and I did not use any of the benefit amount from original claim application on 6-18-17. I have already have been qualified for my 2nd claim within the original benefit year and the funds will not be exhausted once original benefit ends I will have a remaining balance. Please assist.

    1. Holly,

      This modification in your claim is system driven. Please log-in to your account online to explore options or call the Claims Center for assistance.

  7. If a temp job didnt totally explain, nor did the company being short on staff, ask to due additional task outside of original job specification. Hurt myself,tore mesh in my body.left under good cause.

  8. Hello, i will be unemployed by march, the company where i work is closing doors.
    I sell thing on internet (Amazon- Ebay) is not a regular sales and has its ups and downs, not a fixed earnings, do i still qualify for unemployment? or who can help me with that?

    1. Josh,

      If your employment is full-time and your employer is paying Unemployment Taxes, you should qualify. Please check with your employer.

  9. I got fired on December 15th, and the company provided me a severance package that will be paid in a bi weekly basis, until June 2018. I have checked in the eligibility unemployment calculator and the result I got is that I am eligible to a $275 per week amount.

    Please let me know if I am really eiligible and when I should apply for that.

    rds, Alberto Barriento

  10. Please, I need to now the exact weeks I need to turn in my job search logs. I have tried to call the 18003186022 and the system does not recognize my social security #. 537-94-6676
    PS-please help…thank u

    1. James,

      Please note this is a private forum and we would not be able to arrange for a callback. You may log onto the department’s website for specific details pertaining to your claim.

  11. The Company that I worked for recently closed their local office and thus employment was terminated. Severance packages were agreed upon but have not been paid out yet, Do I have to wait until the severance pay is received before applying for unemployment?

  12. Our store will be closing sometime in Feb.2018 because we cannot find employees willing to work. I am 60 years old and have worked there for almost 18 years. They have another store about 16 miles from where I live but have no way of getting there. I don’t own a car and there’s no public transportation. I also have a lumbar fusion and a knee replacement which makes walking very difficult and twisting and bending almost impossible. Will I qualify for unemployment benefits?

    1. Maria,

      Considering the background, I am guessing you should be. Please make sure to consult the Unemployment Office in your state before making a decision. Please call the Claims Center.

  13. I’m a contractor working at a bank as a QA Engineer. I have worked here for 9 months and now company is laying contractors off. Its not our fault to get laid off he is just making business decision. Am I qualify?

    1. Contract workers do not generally qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

      Please check further with the Unemployment Office in your state.

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