- Unemployment benefits provide periodic monetary payments to individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own. The program operates under federal guidelines; however each state administers a customized plan, which can vary. Benefit amounts, eligibility criteria and benefit time frames may differ from state to state. Generally the program is financed by employers, but in some states working employees also contribute to the fund. Most states make payments for up to 26 weeks, but in periods of high unemployment, these may be extended.
- Federal guidelines require that applicants qualify monetarily, meaning that an applicant must have earned a certain amount over a base period. The base period is usually the previous 52 weeks, or the most recent four full quarters. The actual base amount differs by state. In addition, applicants must be medically fit to work and be actively looking for a job. Federal guidelines also require that the individual be legally able to work in the U.S., although citizenship is not required.
- Benefit applicants must have earned wages from an employer. Independent contractors such as freelance writers or licensed real estate agents are not eligible since they are not actively on the employer's payroll. Prison inmates also cannot receive benefits. However, workers need not to have been employed full time to receive benefits -- temporary and part time-workers are eligible in most states. In addition, applications are only accepted by the state where the eligible work occurred, even if the applicant has since moved to another state.
Denial of Benefits
- If all monetary base period and work eligibility requirements are met, the most common reason for benefit denial involve the reasons for the job loss. A voluntary resignation may result in denial unless the applicant can demonstrate he left under duress or another state-accepted reason. A worker who was terminated for cause also is not eligible, as well as anyone who was offered suitable work, but refused the job. There may be disagreements on these issues between the employee and the previous employer, as well as the interpretation of the situation by the state benefit analyst. As such, applicants may appeal the decision and request a hearing. The denial may be reversed by the hearing board.