Unemployment Eligibility - Qualifying for Unemployment

Am I Eligible?

Your state determines your eligibility, how much you'll receive, and how long you'll receive it for. You can find information regarding your eligibility on your state's official website.

To Qualify: 

  • You lost your job through no fault of your own. 
  • Earned a certain amount of money during a "base period" of time prior to being let go.
  • You are able to work and actively looking for a job to maintain eligibility.

Here is a list of very state's eligibility/FAQs page:

                                                           Eligibility Info By State

Alabama

Massachusetts

South Dakota

Alaska

Michigan

Tennessee

Arizona

Minnesota

Texas

Arkansas

Mississippi

Utah

California

Missouri

Vermont

Colorado

Montana

Virginia

Connecticut

Nebraska

Washington

Delaware

Nevada

West Virginia

Florida

New Hampshire

Wisconsin

Georgia

New Jersey

Wyoming

Hawaii

New Mexico

District of Columbia

Idaho

New York

Illinois

North Carolina

Indiana

North Dakota

Iowa

Ohio

Kansas

Oklahoma

Kentucky

Oregon

Louisiana

Pennsylvania

Maine

Rhode Island

Maryland

South Carolina

Another good tool to use is on the benefits.gov site. Follow the link, enter your state and employment information, and it will help you determine your eligibility, as well as provide you with links to other resources. 

What If I'm A Former Federal Employee?

The Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program provides benefits for unemployed civilian federal employees, who are eligible. 

Workers Who Are Eligible

Not everyone who is out of work is eligible to receive unemployment benefits from their state. Employers contribute to a state fund for unemployment benefits, and their employees are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. This includes all pay types and occupations that fall under that standard. Tipped workers such as waiters/servers qualify as long as they work for a business that contributes to the fund. If you were self employed/owned your own business and it didn't contribute to your state's unemployment fund, you more than likely won't qualify. If you were an independent contractor and received a 1099 form from your client, then you were not considered an employee of that company. Eligibility for unemployment is based on being employed by a company or organization that was contributing to the state's unemployment fund. 

What Would Disqualify Me From Benefits?

Every state is different, but examples below are generally the standard by which you could be disqualified from unemployment benefits.

They are:

  • Insufficient Earnings or the Length of Employment Was Too Short - Your earnings and the length of your employment will be a factor in determining if you are eligible to receive benefits. You usually have to have worked for your employer for a one year minimum.
  • You're Self Employed, Contractor, or Freelancer - Technically, independent contractors are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits because they are not payroll employees of a company that hires them.
  • Fired for A Justifiable Reason - If you were fired for misconduct or for a cause that was considered to be inappropriate or illegal, you will more than likely not be eligible to receive benefits.
  • Quit Without a Good Reason - What would be considered a "good reason" depends on each state. Some examples would be if you left your job to attend school, or to get married. Also, if you left because you didn't like your company or job.
  • You Provided False Information - If you provided any false information whatsoever on your unemployment paperwork, you might not be eligible.
  • Failure to Look For a Job While Collecting Unemployment Benefits - You could be disqualified after receiving benefits if it is determined by your state that you weren't actively looking for a job, or if you turn down a job offer.

One other thing to keep in mind is if you had given your two week notice, and your employer doesn't accept it, and fires you immediately afterward, it's usually considered an involuntary termination which could still qualify you for unemployment benefits.

What If I Quit For A Good Reason?

For the most part, quitting your job voluntarily generally disqualifies you for unemployment benefits. Gray areas do exist on a case by case basis. You still may be able to collect if you quit for what is considered to be a good reason. This is determined by your state's unemployment office.

Some examples of leaving your job for a good reason are:

  • You Left Due to Illness or an Emergency - If you or one of your family members become ill, or if your employer doesn't accommodate your health problems.
  • Abusive or Bad Working Conditions - Your employer hasn't resolved bad or unbearable working conditions. You were asked to commit acts that are illegal or immoral. Or if you experienced sexual harassment.
  • Safety Concerns - This can't be related to the very nature of your job. So if your job is generally dangerous, such as if you were a firefighter or police officer, this doesn't apply. Safety Concerns would be if you or a coworker was injured by a piece of equipment that your employer never fixed. 
  • Drastic Pay Reduction - If your pay decrease is significant, you might qualify.
  • Lost Your Mode of Transportation to Work - You can't afford to fix your car because it was involved in an accident, or if the mode of public transportation you take to work shuts down. These would be examples of having a good reason to leave your job.
  • Your Employer Failed to Honor Your Employment Contract - If you brought up the issue to your employer that they failed to honor the terms of your employment contract, and they still fail to comply, this can be considered a good reason to quit your job.

Coronavirus' Impact On Eligibility

Many Americans have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. government is working on a program called Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). It's purpose is to provide economic support to businesses, employees, and families. This will also help states extend unemployment pay periods when they generally don't. Once implemented, the act will cover independent workers affected by the coronavirus who were generally not covered before.

This will also help employees who have been furloughed or put on unpaid leave due to the pandemic.


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