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Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

Updated : August 4th, 2020

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
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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. I had trouble getting my proof of self-employment to upload in secure file exchange and finally got it submitted by 12:06 am , 6 minutes late. What are the possibilities that they will deny it? I have received unemployment from March 2020 to some of Jan and some in Feb 2021. Most of Dec, Jan, Feb, March, & april were stopped for this proof of employment.
    Also, I see proof of Income as a 2nd issue but it is always on there. That was not on my TO DO list.
    I feel for u all on ID.ME…

    Anyone trying to reach UI, call their number, press 2 or 3 (questions abt filing a claim?) and then wait thru the message. At the end of it, u will be connected to a live person! I promise.. don’t push another button.. I’ve done it 4 times and it never failed.

    We lost our home, my ex took my child…. (kept her after a visit and called cps facilitating drama while the cops wouldn’t give her back without paperwork locked up in the court house..shut down for covid) I raised her by myself for 12 years & now she is with a violent alcoholic and parental alienating parent .. ….my dog, my 9-year sweet little best friend, was attacked, passing away 3 days later.. all in this time frame.
    But! It will all be ok. I have faith.

    Be grateful for your life and all that is in it today. What u dwell on daily will be your strength or weakness.
    Good luck to all of u.
    And thank you, Jeff, for responding out here. It is appreciated!
    Davulia S.

  2. I filed over two months ago. I have not received any information. My status says “pending resolution”. I have no way of contacting anyone. My position was eliminated at my job and I submitted the documentations online. I dont know what else I can do.

  3. I have been apply Ohio Pua unemployment since July 5th still pending issues. Upload what they ask for when ever I call says your case is in Adjudication. Very very frustrated, financially I am broke. Health issues. Waiting a long period.Don’t know what I will do ?

    1. Nafisa,

      I can understand your situation. There will be a delay considering the number of applications that are being processed. Please continue chasing the office/check your status online at regular intervals until payments normalize.

    2. Same here since Feb 2021 turned in all the documents still pending issues 3 months now. When you call they tell you to be patient. Pulling my hair out it’s so frustrating.

  4. I was receiving PUA unemployment. they made me file for a new claim in February. Now I am in adjudication even though I gave all the same information from my previous claim. Have been adjudication since February and I call and they say they will put in a ticket to have an Adjudicator call me. Nothing. I am wondering If I can go down to to Maryland Unemployment Office and demand that someone talk with me to release my claim for payment. It’s been 56 days. I read that they have a maximum of 45 days.

    1. Luis,

      Your adjudicator may be inundated with pending cases. Please continue to follow up (if you have the contact details) or consider the option of visiting an office in the vicinity if safe and feasible.

    2. t sounds just like mine only im disqualified yet actie every till sept 4th . they haven’t asked me for anything! i file then its disqualified yet im told im ok and have nothing to do bit wait for an answer? answer to what? they switched my program and all and asked me to provide proof for a claim that wa denied al eady back in 2018! deny me once and then again perhaps? lol idk

  5. My mom had unemployment in Florida. She just recently moved temporally to California with a sister since she needs assistance, and now the website is telling her she cannot do anything because she is register in another state. Can she keep filing unemployment in Florida, even if she is living and register now in another state? how is the process to change the unemployment? I tried calling and there is no answer. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie,

      Please ask your mother to consider transferring the UI benefits from FL to CA (details will be available on either of the websites). If there are benefits weeks left in the account, she will be able to claim them.

    1. Leatha,

      UI benefits are offered to claimants who lose employment involuntarily and be able to and available for work.

  6. I lived in ga in 2019 and move to florida in 2020 and work for the xmas months in nov-dec. I was told to do a combine wage claim. my question is which state do i file the claim in?

  7. I filed for pua in Ohio back in October 2020.My claim has been in ajudacatuon since 11/1/20.So 2 to 6 weeks is a total understatement! When I call.i am told to basically hurry up and wait some more.I have recently been redetermined and my claim is allowed.but I have one pending issue.How long is too long?

    1. Nicole,

      Unfortunately, nobody has an answer. There are perhaps thousands of pending applications. Please consider the option of visiting an office in the vicinity if safe and feasible.

  8. If you claim your weeks for unemployment and for the next 2 months you still have not received your money. Where can you go in volusia county to talk with a live person

      1. HI Jeff,
        I applied back in Dec 5th, 2020 and I haven’t received any correspondence, is there a local office that I can make an appt to make certain my claim is right.

        1. Adam,

          You can consider visiting an office in the vicinity if safe and feasible (details will be available on the Unemployment Office’s website).

  9. On NYS DOL website, my claim is saying current yet the information is for my old claim with 0 days remaining despite receiving 2 weeks of payments on the new claim and I was able to certify last night. I haven’t received anything; no letters or emails.

  10. I was disqualified for UI benefits for not providing an ID and other forms of identification. How do I fix this?

        1. Gary,

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

    1. Hi Mike, I’m in NYS and was at the end of my BYE on 3/14, I was still certifying but wasn’t getting paid. I found out I had to file a new claim because my other was exhausted. I’m still waiting on approval. Maybe you have to file a new claim. I hope this helps.

  11. They say 2-6 weeks it’s more accurate to say 2-6 months; and when you call many of them are rude and unwilling to assist!

  12. someone needs to look into Sharon L. Anton gillette, wyo. or dickinson, nd she is a fraud and has done so many fraudulent things and please look into her

    1. Annette,

      Please report it to the Fraud Division of the Unemployment Office in your state. You can report on the website.

  13. I worked part time for thee years here in florida. I’m currently not working. I’m also retired and collects social security.
    My question is
    Am I qualified to file for unemployment ?

    1. Ruby,

      To be eligible, you’re required to have sufficient hours and earnings. Please use the “Benefits Calculator” available on this website.

  14. So adjudication takes 8 to 12 weeks. Oh okay, that explains why I havent received payment since July. That surely helps just like the rest of the information that you give. And by the way. What’s the NEW reason you can’t get through to the Call Center.

    1. Maria,
      I have gotten through to the call center (live agent) every time i’ve tried calling within the last 2 weeks. The number to a live agent (follow the prompts carefully) is (667)-207-6520. i have gotten through within 10 to 15 mins with each call i had made!

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