How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits provide individuals with partial wages if they lose their job (without getting fired).  However, some folks are reluctant to accept an unemployment check. They feel it is a “handout” or somehow indicative of a personal failing. But the bottom line is that, while you were working, you were paying into the unemployment pool. So if it helps, look at unemployment benefits as reclaiming some of your own hard-earned money.

Here’s how to get it back:

Gather the required documents/information
Before contacting the appropriate agency, gather the information that might be required of you during the application process. This usually includes the normal identifying information like social security number or driver’s license number, but can also include dates and contact information of former employment, your earnings for the past two years, or the Federal ID number for the former employer (found on your W-2 tax form). You should also have handy the bank account information for the account where you would like your money deposited, since many states offer direct deposit for unemployment benefits.

Don’t delay
Apply immediately with the unemployment insurance program for the state where you worked since it can take 2-3 weeks for the payments to start. After you find your state agency, you may be able to apply online or over the phone, depending on the state’s rules.

Keep looking for work
Be aware that should you receive unemployment benefits, you may need to provide proof that you are actively seeking work. You may also be asked to file a claim once or twice a month to continue to receive benefits, so mark your calendar accordingly.

It’s a good idea to also register with the state’s employment services office to make yourself aware of any free help you may be eligible for while you’re between jobs.

Revised January 2016

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