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Frequently Asked Questions

Issue Question Answer
Age Limit Is there an age limit for unemployment? No, there is no age limit.  If you’ve been working and earning covered W-2 wages, you are eligible for unemployment benefits when you lose that job – even if you are also collecting Social Security  benefits.   SS benefits have no effect on unemployment benefits in any state..
Approval How will I know if my unemployment claim was approved? Claim approvals take at least three weeks, in many states longer.  It is important to keep claiming.   Some states send approval letters.  In other states, a change in your online claim status will be your only notification.   Of course, if you believe you’ve been approved and haven’t received payments within several days of claiming, contact your state.
Benefit Payments Stopped I was receiving benefits. Now my claim status shows pending issue and my payments have stopped.  Why? An employer will often ignore the initial inquiry from the state and only appeal after receiving  notice of claim approval – in which case, most states immediately suspend benefit payments and schedule an appeal hearing within two weeks. to avoid overpayments to claimant.

Suspensions of this type usually occur within a few weeks after benefits begin.  If claimant has been receiving benefits for months, then the state will continue  benefit payments until the appeal hearing.

Benefit Year How long do I have to collect benefits? Claimants are given 52 weeks (the Benefit Year) to collect the monetary award under an established claim.   Any balance remaining when the claim expires is lost

Most states backdate any claim to the Sunday preceding the day filed.  The claim expires on a Saturday, 52 weeks from that date.

Cancel A Claim Can a claim be cancelled by claimant? Generally most states allow a claim cancellation provided no benefits have been claimed or paid out by the state and the cancellation request is made within 30 days of the Notice of UI Award.   A claimant might want to consider cancelling an application if a delay in filing would result in a base period which could provide a higher and/or longer benefit.
Claim Balance How to check my unemployment balance? Most states provide online information on balance remaining on a claim as well as detailed claim history.  Log into your online account.  The information should be there.
Debit Cards Where is my debit card? Many states are not sending debit cards until claims have been approved.  To avoid the delay of access to funds, set up a direct deposit to a bank account.    If you have no bank account, then, of course, a debit card will be the means of payments.  States no longer send checks.
Drug Testing Can I file for unemployment benefits if I refused to take a drug test? Refusal to take a drug test is a violation of your employment agreement with that employer unless employer never told you about this condition of your employment.  You can certainly apply for benefits.  Expect an uphill battle to obtain benefits.
Employer Appeals How do employers protest or appeal benefit determinations and charges against their accounts? When queried on a new application for benefits, employer can respond in a manner which indicates misconduct.  This usually results in an immediate denial.  Claimant will need to appeal to have facts of the case properly examined.

In other situations, employer will ignore the initial inquiry from the state and only appeal after receiving  notice of claim approval – in which case, most states immediately suspend benefit payments and schedule an appeal hearing within two weeks. to avoid overpayments to claimant.

Extensions My benefits are exhausted.   Is there an extension program available? No.  Because of a significantly lower national unemployment rate, Congress chose not to extend the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act in December of 2013.
Government Employees Am I eligible if I am a federal or state government worker? Federal and state government employees are eligible for benefits.

Federal employees may become eligible for unemployment benefits under the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program.

UCFE is paid by the states under the same terms and conditions as regular state unemployment compensation (UC).

How Often Can I Collect? Can you collect unemployment twice in one year?


Claimants are allowed one claim per individual state in any twelve-month period. This is called the benefit year.  If benefits are exhausted before the benefit year end date, the state will not accept another claim until the current benefit year has expired.
How Often Can I Collect? What if I have worked in more than one state? However, for claimants who have earnings in two or more states, a claim is possible in both states within the same twelve-month period –  provided benefits from the first claim have been exhausted.

Therefore, for those who have worked in two or more states, it is important  to carefully examine earnings – and file strategically to take advantage of the opportunity for two back-to-back claims.

Generally, the claim should be filed in the state where the earnings are the oldest and most likely to age out of the base period.   When that claim is exhausted, a second claim can then be filed in the state with the most recent earnings.

How to File Can unemployment first time claim be filed anytime online? Yes.  Online is the preferred and usually only way to effectively file for benefits in most states.  Of course, from time to time state websites are down for updates and maintenance.   Sundays most often can be problematic.  Generally, filing during the week and before midnight is best.
Interview Interview – how to cancel an interview? There isn’t any need to cancel the interview.  Just don’t take the call.   However, as a courtesy, make an attempt to call your state to cancel.
IRA/401(k) Withdrawals Are my benefits affect by IRA and 401(k) withdrawals? IRA withdrawals do not need to be reported to your state and have no effect on your benefits.

401(k) withdrawals will affect your benefits.  The state will suspend payments until it determines what portion of the 401(k) distribution is attributable to your employer and will reduce your weekly benefits by that amount.

In addition to affecting your unemployment benefits, 401(k) withdrawals can cause serious and expensive tax issues – penalty for early withdrawal, mandatory 20% withholding, and additional ordinary income taxes over and above what you already are required to pay because the distribution is taxable.  You might even be subject to a higher tax bracket.

All of the above can be avoided with a DIRECT ROLLOVER of the 401(k) into an IRA at any bank or brokerage.  From there you can strategically withdraw to avoid unpleasant tax issues – and, of course, the IRA withdrawal has no effect on your unemployment benefit.

Job Offer Do I have to look for a job when I have one to return to? Yes, unless you have a guaranteed return to work date 28 days from layoff, or there is a union contract in place.

Otherwise, the work search requirement is not waived.  Therefore, you must continue to search for work until you begin the new job.   Bear in mind, many job offers/promises never materialize or are retracted.   Until you begin that job, continue to search for work.

Length of Claim How long can does my claim remain active? Claimants are given 52 weeks (the Benefit Year) to collect the monetary award under an established claim.   Any balance remaining when the claim expires is lost.
Maternity/Disability Can I get unemployment on maternity leave Only a few states pay benefits for maternity and/or disability.   Among them are NY, NJ and CA.  CA has two programs – short-term disability for illness, recovery after childbirth, etc., and paid family leave for bonding or other family issues.  Consult your state’s specific website for details.
Military I am being discharged from the military.  Where do I apply for benefits? You can apply in your state of discharge (provided you are physically in the state at the time of application; you can move later and still collect from that state), your next state of residence when you arrive there, or your home state.  The state in which you will apply will need a copy of your DD214.

Therefore, before applying, do the research on which state among those choices will provide the best and longest benefit.

Do not, under any circumstances, take any employment prior to submitting and receiving approval of your claim application no matter which state you choose.

Move to Another State How do I transfer benefits to another state? Benefits are not transferred to another state.  You can move to another state, but you continue to submit weekly claims to – and unemployment benefits are paid by – the state where you applied according to its formula regardless of where you live.

When you move, you are required to search for work at your new location and keep appropriate records just as you did before your move.

Before you move, be sure to notify your state of your new address.

Nonprofit Employer Can you collect unemployment if you worked for a nonprofit organization? Yes.  Most states now do not allow nonprofits to escape responsibility for unemployment benefits.
Number of Claims How many claims can I have? There is no limit on the number of unemployment claims you may have in your lifetime.   You are, however, limited to one claim per individual state within any 52-week period.

You may also have more than one state claim in different states within the same 52-week period provided the benefits under the first claim have been exhausted.  This situation can be advantageous for those who have worked in multiple states and/or employers within a year or year and half.

Whether or not the state can establish a claim will depend on to which states your employers have reported your wages.

Pension Income How does pension income affect my benefits? Generally, if yours is a pension funded by the employer. your weekly benefit will be offset by the weekly equivalent of that benefit and the state will pay the difference, if any.   To determine the offset, the state will multiply your monthly pension by 12 and then divide by 52 to determine the weekly offset.   If the pension offset exceeds your weekly benefit, no benefit is paid.
Probation Period Am I eligible for benefits if discharged while on probation? Most states will pay benefits if you are discharged while on probation, provided you have sufficient wages/hours in your base period to satisfy eligibility requirements for benefits and you have not been discharged for willful misconduct.
Resignation Can I collect if my employer forces me to resign? Yes.   Most states ascribe to the approach that an employee who leaves work when asked by the employer to either resign or be fired, or an employee who resigns rather than agree to a forced leave of absence, or employee has been offered an incentive and/or coerced in some way has not left work of his or her own free will and is therefore deemed involuntarily unemployed.

It may be necessary to appeal an initial denial in order to obtain benefits, as initial claims interviewers do not have the authority to make decisions on this issue.

School Can I apply for school while drawing unemployment Yes, many claimants attend school and collect benefits – provided the state approves the class schedule.  However, claimants are expected to continue to search for work and accept a suitable job offer.

That said, generally, benefits are not available to students  carrying a full-time schedule during working hours.   Online classes with flexible class schedules are viewed more favorably.

In all cases, the states require assurances you are willing to drop school and/or change your class schedule if suitable work is offered.

Seasonal Work Unemployment for loss of hours during winter? If your earnings history meets your state state’s requirements, it is quite possible to collect benefits during the off-season.

Claims are based on earnings in the base period used at the time of application.  The weekly benefit amount is determined by those base period wages.

Unless claimant is eligible for a work search waiver, he is expected to search for and accept suitable work during this period of unemployment.

Severance How does severance affect my benefit? Learn how severance pay can affect your benefits.
Social Security Can I receive Social Security and unemployment benefits at the same time? Yes.  All states allow claimants to collect both SS benefits and unemployment benefits.   Illinois was the last state to repeal the Social Security offset.

Teachers Can I collect benefits during the summer or when school is not in session? You are not eligible for benefits during the summer or when school is not in session if you have a reasonable expectation of employment when the hiatus is over.

If your contract has been terminated at the end of the current school year or beginning of the hiatus then, yes, you are eligible for benefits thereafter.

Waiting Week Do I get paid for the waiting week;  how to file waiting week? No.  A waiting week is just that – a delay in benefit payments for one week.  The waiting week is never paid.   The waiting week, however, must be claimed via the standard weekly certification form similar to every other week.  Work searches must be performed for the waiting week.
When Paid How long after certifying for unemployment will I get paid If your claim has been approved, most states will direct deposit to your bank account within two days of claiming.  A debit card credit may take another day as banks vary in their processing.
When should I file? My office is closing at what point should I file for unemployment? If you have a good work history – meaning at least fifteen  months of solid work prior to the layoff – file on the day you have completed your last day of work.

If you don’t have a good work history – unless you are in a state which includes wages to date of discharge (like NJ), if your unemployment history is sporadic or short, it is often wise to delay filing until the calendar quarter turns in order to capture more of your recent wages.

For example, in states with an alternate base period (not all states  have them) – filing the last week in December captures wages only through the most recently completed calendar quarter – Sept. 30 – whereas waiting to file in January will capture wages through December 31.

Most states backdate their claims to the Sunday of the week the application is filed.  Therefore, it is possible to file in January and yet have the claim dated December 28th – thus excluding an entire quarter of wages.

Strategic planning can make all the difference in amount and length of benefit.

Who Pays Who pays for my unemployment benefit? Over 90% of the cost of the benefit falls on the employer with some assistance from the state and federal government.   Employers are assessed a federal and state tax for each employee.  The amount of this tax increases or decreases relative to claims against that employer’s reserve account.    Only three states – Alaska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey – assess a very small payroll tax against the employee’s wages for unemployment benefit insurance.  Even for a 20-year employee, the employee’s share wouldn’t pay for five weeks’ benefits.

State mandated benefits – such as trailing spouse – are paid by the state, not the employer.

Working Part-Time Can I work part-time and still collect benefits? Each state has its own formula for those who work part-time –  called the Partial Benefit Rate.

Most states do not allow any benefit if your part-time work is equal to your weekly benefit amount.   Others will add a certain percentage to your weekly benefit amount and deduct gross earnings from that.   One state (NY) will reduce the benefit by 25% for each or part of a day worked.

Working part-time is often not cost-effective and raises separation and requalification issues should you decide to quit or employer discharges  you.   Therefore, think carefully before accepting part-time work.  Would your time be better spent looking for a good-paying full-time job given the risks of losing your  benefits entirely should you have a dispute with a part-time employer.

State formulas and expanded discussion on how earnings will affect your benefits can be found  here:

Find out if you can work part time and still collect benefits.