Applying for Unemployment Benefits

Some folks who have lost their job have a negative association with receiving an unemployment check. They feel it is a “handout” or is somehow indicative of a personal failing. But the bottom line is that while you were working, you were paying into the unemployment pool. So if it helps, look at it as reclaiming some of your own hard-earned money. Here’s how to get it back:

Before contacting the appropriate agency, gather the information that could be required of you during the application process. This usually includes the normal identifying information like social security number or Driver’s license number, but can also include dates and contact information of former employment, your earnings for the past two years, or the Federal ID number for the former employer (found on your W-2 tax form). You should also have handy the bank account information for the account where you would like your money deposited, since many states offer direct deposit for unemployment benefits.

Apply immediately with the unemployment insurance program for the state where you worked since it can take 2-3 weeks for the payments to start. Find your state agency. Depending on the state’s rules you may be able to apply online or over the phone.

Be aware that should you receive unemployment benefits, you may need to provide proof that you are actively seeking work, so be prepared to do so. You may also be required to file a claim once or twice a month to continue to receive the benefits, so mark your calendar accordingly.

It’s a good idea to also register with the state’s employment services office to make yourself aware of any free help you may be eligible for during your time looking for work. You can find your state’s agency here.

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