At some point in your life, you may find yourself unemployed. Though your head may be spinning with the fallout, one of the first things you need to do is to see if you’re qualified for unemployment benefits.

Here are some things you need to know about unemployment benefits:

  • Each State administers a separate unemployment insurance program within guidelines established by Federal law.
  • Unemployment compensation is funded by employer contributions. To collect, workers must file a claim and prove they’re entitled to payments. This means that they are unemployed “through no fault of their own” (as determined under the laws of their state.)
  • You must meet the State requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established (one year) period of time referred to as a “base period.”
  • Your eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. In some states, you have to be laid off or fired in order to be eligible for benefits. In others, you may be able to collect even if you quit your job. In states that allow the latter, there may be a waiting period before your compensation begins.
  • You must file for unemployment where you live, not where you worked
  • Your payments are based on your salary, but there is a cap on how much you can receive. In many states, the compensation will be half you earnings.
  • If you received a severance from your last place of employment, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Or, if you are, the benefits may be prorated, depending on if you are receiving your severance in a lump sum or in payments over a period of time.
  • Regular benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states, although some workers may be eligible for 13 weeks of extended benefits.
  • The state will require that you actively seek work while you collect your unemployment benefits. You must be ready, willing, available, and able to work.
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return.