Be aware, these offices are very busy. You may have to wait a considerable time on the phone. You can also visit the nearest office, but be prepared to wait there as well. You will find the answer to many of your questions at the state agency’s Web site. You may be best off by simply applying for unemployment compensation and waiting for the state’s determination. This can take several weeks if your situation involves several employers or several home states. Remember that your application may be declined. You have a right to appeal the decision, and you should exercise that right.
Q: I’m on Social Security disability benefits and recently lost my job after two years. Can I collect unemployment compensation? –Alice, Albany, N.Y.
A: To be eligible for unemployment compensation, you have to be actively looking for a job and able to work. Receiving Social Security disability suggests you may not be available or able to work. Often, claims for unemployment compensation in this situation are declined.
Q: My employer is requiring we take a “furlough” day, without pay, twice a month. That’s 24 days this year, or about a month’s pay lost. Can I file for unemployment compensation? –Berkley, Charles Town, W.Va.
A: If your work hours are reduced, or if you are told to take days off without pay, you may qualify for “partial unemployment compensation” in most states as a result of your pay loss. Promptly apply for benefits to determine if you qualify.
Q: I’ve been successfully self-employed for six years, but my major customer just went out of business, and I have no work from other smaller clients. I’ve been paying my self-employment tax all these years. Can I file for benefits from the company that employed me before I became self-employed? –Harrison, Chicago, Ill.
A: Self-employed people do not qualify for unemployment compensation. Your federal self-employment tax payments are essentially your FICA taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Self-employed individuals do not pay unemployment tax to their state of residence.
Unfortunately, you can’t make a claim from employment years ago. Eligibility and benefit determination rules place limits on what income qualifies and how recently you worked with an employer.