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Archived News Article: Information may be out of date
August 18, 2021

Your Guide to Unemployment Insurance Benefits 

Your Guide to Unemployment Insurance Benefits 
Your Guide to Unemployment Insurance Benefits 

Have you recently become unemployed through no fault of your own? Are you looking for temporary financial assistance while searching for new employment opportunities? In this article, you will learn about how Unemployment Insurance may help you, how to check your eligibility on, where to apply, and more. 

Am I eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits?

Each state sets its own guidelines for eligibility for UI benefits, but because all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law, you generally should be eligible if you:

  • Are unemployed through no fault of your own: In most states, this means you must have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
  • Meet work and wage requirements: You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a "base period." (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed.)
  • Meet any additional state requirements: Find details of your own state’s program by using the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Service Locator or use the Eligibility Checker found at the bottom of each benefit page.

How and where can I apply for Unemployment Insurance?

To receive UI benefits, you need to file a claim with the UI program in the state where you worked.

  • You should contact your state's UI program as soon as possible after becoming unemployed. Find your state's program by using the Unemployment Insurance Service Locator and check with them to see if you should file a claim in person, by telephone, or online.
  • Generally, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, the state UI agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states.
  • When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.
  • It typically takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check. Some states require a one-week waiting period; in other words, you would receive your first payment for the second week of your unemployment claim.

How do I stay eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits?

Once you begin receiving UI benefits, most states require the following to maintain weekly eligibility:

  • File weekly or biweekly claims, usually by mail or phone.
  • Be able to work, available to work, and actively seek work each week you claim benefits.
  • Report any earnings from work you had during the week(s). States have different rules for how much money you can earn while receiving benefits.
  • Report any job offers or job offers you decline during the week.
  • If requested, report to your local UI claims office or American Job Center on the scheduled day and time. Benefits may be denied for those who do not attend.
  • Some states require registration for work with the State Employment Service, so it can assist you in finding employment.
  • Meet any other state eligibility requirements.

How long will my Unemployment Insurance benefits last?

Generally, unemployment benefits are based on a percentage of your earnings over a recent 52-week period - up to a state maximum amount. 

  • Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states.
  • Additional weeks of benefits, called Extended Benefits, may be available during times of high unemployment.
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return, or you may elect to have the tax withheld by the State Unemployment Insurance agency.

For more information on State Unemployment Insurance visit the Employment and Career Development category on and filter by the Unemployment Assistance subcategory. Also be sure to check out our News page, where you can browse a variety of resources on employment and career development. As always, be sure to take our Benefit Finder for more information on benefit programs you may be eligible to receive.

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