One of the first things to do after being fired is to check into unemployment insurance benefits. If you are fired from a job, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation unless your employer proves you left your job voluntarily (you quit or resigned), or you were discharged for misconduct. (And there is an appeals process even if your employer initially makes this claim.)
The unemployment insurance system (UI) is a partnership of the federal government and state programs. The basic UI program is managed by the states, although the U.S. Department of Labor oversees the system. States provide most of the funding and administer the benefit payments. Although states must follow federal requirements, they generally establish their own eligibility criteria and benefit levels.
As of January 2013, regular unemployment insurance benefits — in most states — run for 26 weeks (plus one unpaid “waiting week”). For people who have not yet found a job within that time frame, Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) offer additional compensation. Each of these programs has a different deadline. Consequently, the number of weeks you are eligible for will depend on when you filed your original claim.
The permanent Extended Benefits (EB) program typically provides an additional 13 or 20 weeks of compensation to the unemployed who have exhausted their regular benefits in states where the unemployment situation has worsened dramatically.
Your unemployment payment depends on your weekly earnings prior to being laid off, and the maximum amount of unemployment benefits available (this will vary by state). Unemployment benefits typically replace about half of your previous earnings, subject to a maximum benefit level. The “average” unemployment benefit was about $300 per week in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The unemployment insurance program provides benefits to people who:
• Have enough employment to establish a claim
• Have lost employment through no fault of their own
• Are ready, willing, and able to work
• Are actively seeking work
Check to see if your state offers an unemployment benefits calculator. (A simple Google search can identify if one is available.) There are two types of unemployment calculators — one that tells you how much money you are entitled to collect, and another which tells you how many weeks you are eligible to collect unemployment.
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if:
• Your job was eliminated
• Your employer fired you because you could not meet their performance or production standards, or their qualifications for the position
• You lost your job due to lack of work
• There was an involuntary reduction in force
• Your temporary or seasonable employment position ended
• The company downsized or shut down
• The company restructured or reorganized
You may not be eligible for benefits if:
• You were fired because you violated a company policy, rule, or procedure (including absenteeism or insubordination)
• You quit your job without good cause
• You are out of work because of a work stoppage (except for lockouts) that violated an existing collective bargaining agreement where you worked
Knowing what you are entitled to and following the proper procedures to obtain unemployment benefits is key. These unemployment funds give you some financial aide while you are looking for your next job.
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