What to Know About Unemployment Assistance


Losing your job is not an easy thing to deal with, especially when the reason was not your fault. When you lose your job, it can lead to losing income, making it almost impossible to deal with your bills. The federal government is aware that people might need more support than usual when a person loses their job. This is why the government has unemployment assistance opportunities to help out. One particularly helpful opportunity is Unemployment Insurance (UI). However, UI is also known as unemployment assistance or unemployment benefits.

Unemployment Insurance (UI): What is it?

Most people think UI is a federal program, but that is not necessarily the case. Rather, this program is a type of insurance that states offer. It is actually a combined effort of state governments and the federal government from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The program supports people through payments each week, in case they lose their jobs as long as they also meet eligibility requirements.

Since this program is an option that states offer, it differs based on the state. Specific details of the program will vary, such as employment requirements and income requirements, depending on the state you applied in. On the other hand, since this is a combined effort between the federal government and state governments, states are required to work within federal guidelines of the UI program.

Benefits of Unemployment Insurance

If a person is eligible to get benefits from the UI program, they could get up to 26 weeks of benefits in one year. On the other hand, there is a possibility to increase the duration. That is because some people can actually be eligible to extend their benefits. With extended benefits, eligible people in the UI program can receive an additional number of weeks for unemployment benefits. On the other hand, it depends on the state to decide on whether extended benefits are available or not.

There is a maximum amount of benefits that states put up when it comes to the number of weekly benefits someone can receive. For example, in Mississippi, the maximum amount of benefits is $245 each week. However, the maximum amount of benefits in New Jersey is $713 each week.

What Are The Eligibility Requirements to Qualify for UI?

Generally, there are three main eligibility requirements that you need to meet to get benefits:

  • Meeting the conditions that each state puts for earned income or time employed for the specified period of time
  • Make sure the reason you are unemployed is not your fault
  • Being available and able to work, along with actively looking for a job

If a person meets these eligibility requirements, then an individual can apply for the UI program. On the other hand, an individual has the chance to apply, even if they think that they might not qualify. The only way a person can determine whether or not they qualify is by applying. UI applications are free of charge and the worst that can happen is that the program could deny your UI application.

Applying for Unemployment Assistance

When someone files a claim in the state they were employed in, they can submit an application in three ways: online through the state’s UI agency’s website, on the phone, or in person. Usually, it will take between 2-3 weeks for the program to process your claim. If the application receives approval, then recipients need to regularly file unemployment claims every week or every two weeks to prove their current work situation. To make sure they still qualify for UI, a person will need to make sure these reports are available when they are due!

If you are interested in getting UI benefits, then you should submit an unemployment claim with your state’s UI program. How you apply varies on the state you are applying in. Generally, you should apply for UI as soon as you can. Usually, when you submit a claim, it should be with the state you worked in. If you were employed in different states, then you should contact your current state’s UI agency to get more information. Of course, you should offer information on your application, such as where you used to work before, your old boss’s address, and when you were employed. To ensure a smooth application process, you should present accurate and detailed personal information.

What Happens if The Program Denies Your Application?

There are many reasons why the program could deny your application. Some popular reasons your application could not be approved include:

  • Leaving your job for no good reason
  • Not being available or able to work
  • Not looking for work
  • Refusing a good work opportunity
  • Presenting inaccurate information to qualify

On the other hand, if the program denies your program and you do not believe it was the right decision, then you are in luck. You have the option to file an appeal–it is within your rights! You should remember that you will be required to file your appeal during the qualifying time frame.

Different Forms of Assistance for the Unemployed

When people consider unemployment insurance, they might not know that there is more than one option to help out their current situation. These options include:

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)
  • Self-Employment Assistance (SEA)

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

This form of unemployment assistance is a temporary type of benefit for those who lose their jobs (or have their jobs interrupted) because of a disaster. People benefiting from this program must not be eligible for standard UI benefits. Before finding out whether someone can gain from DUA or not, the first step is for the state’s UI agency to figure out whether a person can gain from the standard UI. Since this assistance option is meant to help people going through a disaster’s aftermath, it is a combined effort with the DOL and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Unfortunately, not every disaster will activate this program. Rather, it needs to be labeled as a “major disaster” which means any natural catastrophe or another form of disaster. Different types of natural disasters include the following:

  • Hurricanes
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornadoes

However, other disasters could include:

  • Explosions
  • Natural gas leaks

No matter what the disaster is, it needs to lead to a presidential declaration of the disaster. This declaration is important because it is only declared once it is decided that a local community will need government assistance to manage the aftermath.

Eligibility Conditions of DUA

To be eligible for the DUA program, people need to meet at least one of the disaster-related following conditions:

  • Were unemployed after the natural disaster took place
  • Cannot go to their place of work
  • Have been scheduled to start working, but the option is unavailable
  • Became the head of household after the previous head of household died from the disaster
  • Cannot work because of an injury from the disaster

Other than meeting at least one of the above-mentioned requirements, people should also:

  • Not be eligible for standard UI
  • Be going through unemployment because of the disaster
  • Be able and available to work unless they were injured in the disaster
  • File a DUA application within 30 days of the program’s public announcement
  • Not deny any work options

Self-Employment Assistance (SEA)

When individuals consider unemployment assistance, there are support options for people who want to be self-employed. Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) is an assistance program that provides qualifying employees that are dislocated the option of early re-employment. This opportunity can take place through self-employment. The main aim of the SEA program is to accept and encourage workers to establish their employment through the creation of small businesses. States that run this program make payments per week for a SEA allowance instead of receiving standard UI benefits each week. This allowance can support workers to create their businesses, but only some states manage this program. Only the states mentioned below run the SEA program:

  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Delaware
  • Mississippi
  • Oregon

However, you should know that this list can change. The best way to verify whether your state runs the SEA program is through your state’s UI agency. To be eligible for SEA, an individual needs to qualify for standard UI. People that are eligible for this program will be required to participate in activities of self-employment full-time, which is based on the regulations that the SEA program set. These self-employment activities include the following:

  • How to develop their business
  • Training courses to become an entrepreneur
  • Counseling for their businesses

The Final Verdict

When you lose your job, you might find yourself down in the dumps. Luckily, there might be more assistance than you think. Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a combined effort between the federal and state government. This means that each state has its own version of the program. However, regardless of the state, it will need to follow federal regulations. UI offers payments per week to the people who are eligible for benefits. The maximum amount per week will also depend on the state. Additionally, it can offer benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. However, there is a possibility that a person can extend their benefits to offer support over the limit.

Other than standard UI benefits, there are other unemployment support options that can help you out. These support options include Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and Self Employment Assistance (SEA). If you need more information or want to start on your application for the above opportunities, then you should contact your state’s UI agency.

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