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Unemployment Insurance Overview

Applying for Unemployment Benefits
People who work regularly at nearly any job and put in at least 35 hours per week will likely qualify for full unemployment benefits within their respective states of residence. If you lose your job or are laid off from work through no fault of your own, you can probably obtain unemployment compensation insurance benefits to help pay the bills until you find new employment elsewhere.

Those benefit dollars come from a fund into which all employers pay an amount based on the earnings of their workers. If the employer should release a worker or lay one off for a period of time, that worker can file for, and receive a weekly unemployment check.

Who Might Qualify for Unemployment Benefits
In general, workers who are fired with just cause, such as theft, being drunk on the job, sexual harassment or other egregious offenses, are not eligible for unemployment. Generally, workers who quit of their own accord are also are not eligible for benefits. However, those who are released for other reasons, such as a slowing of business, a worker just isn't a good fit, or is only laid off temporarily, could apply for, and receive unemployment insurance benefits. People who also suffer a significant drop in income, such as might occur while working seasonal jobs that have slower periods, can also qualify for unemployment while continuing to work the same job.

When weekly earnings dip to less than what the benefit amount would be, a worker is eligible for unemployment. Once weekly earnings exceed the weekly benefit amount, the worker no longer can draw benefits.

How Much Unemployment Can You Get, and For How Long?
When calculating benefits, most states will use an average of the highest level of earnings over a six-month period of time for the prior year or two to determine the maximum benefit amount. The average will be drawn from a time when the worker was at maximum employment and earning the most money. Those who have worked full time and earned the maximum benefit will be able to draw unemployment compensation usually for an initial period of six months after which the benefits generally expire.

Unemployed individuals can work odd jobs while drawing unemployment, but all amounts earned must be reported, and most but not all of it will be deducted from the weekly benefit amount.

State and Federal Benefits Extensions
If an unemployed person has not found work by the end of the six month period, usually no more money is available unless either the state in which he or she lives or the federal government provides an extension. Up until Jan. 1 2014, the federal government had three and at one time four tiers of unemployment benefits extensions available for 99 weeks of total benefits. But with the federal government running unprecedented budget deficits and driving federal debt to new record highs nearly every day, those extensions ended and might not be renewed as lawmakers come to grips with federal spending. Now more than ever, it is important for applicants to ensure that their submissions are handled correctly.