Learn About the Requirements for Unemployment Benefits in the U.S.

Meeting all qualifications for unemployment benefits is the first step towards applying for assistance for unemployed U.S. citizens.

Unemployment benefits serve the purpose of replacing your regular earnings while you are without work and are available through the taxes paid by your former employer. However, eligibility for unemployment benefits is not granted to individuals who have lost their jobs through their own fault.

Rather, eligibility for EDD (Employment Development Department) benefits is only given to those who were laid off for objective business reasons. The amount of benefits is not determined in accordance with the financial needs of the worker. In addition, you can receive unemployment benefits for a limited amount of time, as long as you are applying for a new job.

To find out who qualifies for unemployment benefits, along with the requirements of the program, explore the following sections:

  • Who qualifies for unemployment
  • Eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits

Who qualifies for unemployment benefits?

To determine your unemployment insurance eligibility, you must familiarize yourself with the groups that qualify for benefits. In general, all workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own receive eligibility for unemployment benefits.

However, they must also meet additional program requirements under their state’s laws. Note that there is a difference between being fired and getting laid off. If you were let go without being replaced, you are considered laid off. If you were let go and your employer is looking for a replacement, you will be treated as fired.

Some situations when workers are laid off include: if the employer does not have a steady stream of work available for you, if the company goes out of business, if your position is eliminated, or if your assignment has ended. In any case, fired employees through no fault of their own can still receive eligibility for EDD benefits, so long as they were not fired due to misconduct and considered ineligible for unemployment benefits.

In addition to your layoff status, you will also be considered for unemployment benefits if you were: discharged from the military under certain circumstances, on a leave of absence or involved in a labor dispute or a strike.

The U.S. Department of Labor has established broad guidelines regarding unemployment benefits, but it is the responsibility of the appropriate state agencies to set specific eligibility requirements, which
applicants must meet. Additionally, all states exercise their own methods for determining unemployment benefit amounts.

Discover the Requirements for Unemployment Benefits

Regarding how to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must meet all of your state’s unemployment insurance eligibility requirements. To establish your eligibility for EDD benefits, you must comply with the following:

  • Have enough earnings in your base period.
  • Be authorized to work in the United States (especially if you are not a U.S. citizen).
  • Your unemployment or significant reduction in work hours must have occurred through no fault of your own.
  • Be in active pursuit of employment on a daily basis, and do not turn down work.
  • Be available for work without delay, if you are offered a position that fits your qualifications and work experience.
  • Do not be convicted or incarcerated (if you are, you will not be eligible for unemployment insurance and you will not receive any benefits).
  • Meet certain weekly requirements, such as being mentally and physically able to work during the weeks in which you actively seek employment.

The expenses for any trips you take while you are unemployed will not be covered by unemployment insurance, unless the trip was taken with the intention to seek work. Additionally, if you have not worked in your state for a certain period of time, you will not be granted unemployment benefits. The only exceptions would be if you are a member of the military on active duty, or if you are a federal government employee. All states have different laws and regulations, as well as eligibility requirements regarding who qualifies for unemployment.

Note: Your unemployment benefits will be estimated based on the amount of gross wages that you received during your most recent working period, also known as the base period. Depending on the state, the base period can be 12 months, 52 weeks, etc. Also included in the estimate are overtime, bonuses, vacation pay, commissions and severance pay.

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