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Unemployment Benefits – Claiming Benefits

Unemployment benefits are not automatic. After losing his job, an individual must formally request benefits. He will submit a claim and, if eligible, receive payments. The amount he receives and the length of time for which he remains eligible will vary based on a number of factors.

Filing a Claim
Although state laws vary considerably, the procedure for requesting unemployment benefits is fairly standard. The unemployed individual must file a claim (and register for work) at his local public employment office. Because benefits begin as of this date (and not the date when employment ceased, it is especially important to complete this process as quickly as possible.

It should be noted that, in the event an individual is denied benefits, each state has an appeals process in place. Each state has its own procedure for doing so, as well as a set duration of time in which an appeal can be made. It is critical for an individual to understand the rules that apply in his state.

Receiving Benefits
There is some variation on how states calculate the amount of benefit for which an unemployed person is eligible. The typical result of such calculations, however, is that a person will receive approximately one-half of his weekly working salary. The exception to this are those individuals who were more highly paid. Each state has a limit on the amount a person can receive each week. Regardless of previous earnings, an individual cannot receive compensation above this cap.

Generally, an individual receiving unemployment benefits may continue to do so for 26 weeks. Some states allow benefits to continue for as long as 39 weeks. When there is a period of high unemployment in a state, there are provisions for an extension of benefits. This provision enables an individual to continue collecting unemployment benefits for up to 13 weeks beyond his states standard allowance.

Typically, unemployment benefits are not subject to federal and state income taxes. This is logical considering the funds are state and federal funds to begin with. An exception is made, however, when an individual’s annual gross income passes a certain threshold. Thus an individual who earned a significant amount of money during the time he was employed in a given year or an individual who had a certain amount of alternative income while unemployed may be responsible for paying income taxes on all of his income.

Seeking Assistance
Because there is variation and because some of the rules surrounding unemployment compensation are rather complex, an individual with questions or concerns should contact his local employment office. Additionally, he may contact the national Unemployment Insurance Service housed in the Department of Labor. Both should be accessible via standard mail, phone, and the Internet.

Copyright 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.