Unemployment Insurance and You
Susan Aaron | Monster Learning Coach
If you’ve just been laid off, your first questions probably involve unemployment insurance. How does it work? How much will you collect? Where do you sign up?
The answers depend on where you live. Some unemployment insurance policies are set at the federal level, but states set most of the rules and run most of the programs, explains Rich Hobbie, executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, a trade association for unemployment insurance agencies.
Your first step is to find your state’s workforce agency. Most states take claims via phone or Internet. You can also start at a One Stop Career Center or call the Department of Labor at (877) US2-JOBS to find your local unemployment insurance agency.
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Who Gets It?
One way to tell if you’re covered is to find out whether you or your employer is paying unemployment insurance premiums to the state. But even that’s not a guarantee. Some self-employed people must pay unemployment insurance premiums even though they can’t lay themselves off and collect unemployment insurance benefits from the state.
Most states set a few additional rules regarding who can collect unemployment insurance. First, you have to have worked for a certain amount of time, typically about a year and a half. Second, you have to be laid off – not fired – and you have to be in a covered position. Domestic, farm and self-employed workers usually aren’t covered, Hobbie says.
Generally speaking, if you quit or don’t look for work, you can’t collect. But like all regulations, unemployment insurance rules often have exceptions. If you quit for “good cause,” meaning because you were sexually harassed or asked to do something dangerous to your health, morals or safety, you may still be able to collect, says Hobbie.