Apply for Unemployment Benefits in 5 Steps

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In the aftermath of losing a job, thinking about money and how you are going to pay the bills can be overwhelming. Unemployment benefits are usually available to workers who have been laid off or fired through no fault of their own. Employers are required to pay a special tax to fund this national compensation program. These benefits are insurance—not charity, so workers are usually entitled to them.

To ease the process somewhat and save you time, follow these 5 steps when you apply for unemployment benefits.

Step 1:  Apply in person, by phone or online. As soon as you can after being notified of a layoff or termination, apply for unemployment benefits. It can take as much as two to three weeks to receive the first check. Use this unemployment fact sheet to get started.

Step 2:  Gather all required documentation. You will need employment dates and addresses of former employers, and any other proof of employment. Make sure to have this information at your fingertips when you apply to keep your claim from being delayed. Check your state’s documentation requirements online.

Step 3:  Check your eligibility. The average time you are able to collect unemployment checks is 26 weeks. However, during times of economic slowdown, the US Government may extend the limit to as much as 52 weeks.

Step 4: File your claim as often as your State requires. To continue to receive unemployment benefits once approved, you will have to file a claim either weekly or biweekly based on State requirements, plus report any earnings you may have received.

Step 5.  Look for a job while collecting unemployment benefits. You will also have to look for a job while collecting benefits and may be required to show proof. You may decline jobs that are unsuitable or those that do not fit your skill set.

Make it a priority to take these steps to apply for unemployment benefits. Do not procrastinate or waste time with distractions. The sooner you start the process, the quicker you will receive your unemployment check.

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