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Job Loss

Straight Answers About Unemployment Compensation

11. I've been retired for a few years but have been searching for a job to pay the bills. Can I collect against an employer I had until three years ago?

Sorry, but again no. You have to have a recent work and earnings history.

12. I worked for 27 years at the same employer until three months ago, when I became disabled. Can I collect unemployment?

One of the fundamental requirements to qualify for unemployment is that you be able to work. If you are disabled or are receiving disability benefits, including Social Security Disability, you are very unlikely to qualify.

13. I live in New Jersey and worked in New York until I was laid off recently. From which state do I collect benefits?

You collect in the state that was your place of work. If you traveled often or you split your time between locations across state lines, the state should be your primary work location, or the state in which you were paid and had state or local taxes withheld. If you're still not certain, look at your last pay stub for the state address of your employer. That's where you apply.

14. How long can I collect the benefits?

Under normal economic circumstances, the standard unemployment compensation benefit period in all states is at least 26 weeks.  Three federally funded benefit extensions have lengthened this several times during the past twelve months and the maximum benefit period as of Nov. 8 is 93 weeks in states with unemployment rates below 8.5 percent and 99 weeks in states with a rate of 8.5 percent or higher. You can find out the benefit duration in your state by contacting your Career One Stop or referring to this state-by-state list.

15. My claim for benefits was denied. What can I do?

In every state you have a right to appeal the determination of eligibility. Remember, if you were fired for cause (as determined by your state), if you resigned without cause, and if you're not willing and able to accept employment, you don't have any real basis for appeal. If your appeal is denied, you can retain an unemployment attorney to bring legal action but this is rarely cost justified despite what advertisements for such services claim.

16. I'm receiving unemployment benefits and have a chance to work under the table. Is this OK?

You are legally obligated to report all earnings to the unemployment agency. Do this at your own risk; and it's a big risk. Even though you're not having taxes withheld, and there's only a remote chance the unemployment agency will discover this other income, this would be a major violation. You'd risk fines or worse. Weigh the risks with the benefits.

17. I received severance pay when I was laid off. How does this affect my unemployment benefits?

This is a complicated topic. A simple response is that while it depends on how it's paid (in a lump sum or in periodic payments), you can be ineligible for the period of time represented by the severance amount (e.g., three months pay = three months ineligibility). Take a close look at this article, contact your state's Career One Stop, and go ahead and file. The site gives you a determination.

18. I'm told I can collect unemployment benefits if I'm continuing my education to prepare for a new occupation or career. Can this be true?

The answer is a definite "maybe." If you qualify for a state-approved retraining program due to a major industrial dislocation, you might be able to do this. In general though, if you're going to school and not available to work, you don't qualify for benefits.

19. I'm no longer covered by my employer's health benefits and couldn't afford to continue paying for COBRA. Can I get health care benefits with my unemployment?

First, be aware that if you are laid off before Dec. 31, 2009, you may be eligible to continue your employer-sponsored health benefits under a special COBRA provision. That provision requires you to pay only 35 percent of the employer's total premium for up to nine months of coverage. This means you could actually pay less than when you were employed, and obviously, far less than the 100 percent required by existing COBRA rules. Based on your earnings history and family situation, you may also qualify for state-subsidized health benefits. Ask about these at your Career One Stop, even though you'll likely be told about it when you apply for unemployment benefits.

20. My work hours and pay have been cut. What can I do?

Depending on your earnings and the amount of pay you've lost, you may qualify for partial unemployment benefits. Check with your state agency.

My best wishes in your job search and in getting through these tough times.

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