How do Unemployment Benefits Work? How to Apply?

As businesses close because of various reasons, there’s a sudden increase in the number of unemployed persons. Unemployment would mean no source of livelihood and hence a reason to be broke. While it is not easy to be out of work, unemployment benefits can make a difficult situation a little easier. However, history tells us that several persons who are qualified for unemployment benefits fail to take advantage

According to the muse, “a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank found that in the height of the recession in 2008 and 2009, only half of those eligible applied for unemployment benefits .” It is believed that the bulk of those who missed out, probably didn’t know they were eligible. 

How The Process Works

So, who’s eligible for unemployment benefits? How does the process work?


According to the Wall Street Journal, all Americans are eligible for unemployment benefits if they lose a job through no fault of theirs. But that’s not all that’s required. Being a joint federal-state program, other requirements differ from state to state. You have to look them up. You can find them on the Department of Labor’s career page.

Benefit Amount

The precise amount of money you receive will depend on your previous earning. States may calculate the benefits differently, but they all consider previous earnings. Benefits are taxable, and there’s also a variation in the maximum amount an employee can receive as you move across state boundaries.


Most states offer employment benefits for up to 26 weeks. While ten states provide fewer weeks, one provides more. Under certain conditions, the period can be longer. Some states do extend services during emergencies or when there’s high unemployment.

How To Apply

As far as getting unemployment insurance is concerned, Annie Nova of CNBC states the first rule: “You have to apply for it.” The application process may be filed online, by phone, or in person. Once again, as you may have guessed, this varies from state to state. Many states require you to wait a week after you lose your job to file for unemployment insurance.

File Online

To begin the process, get in touch with the unemployment insurance agency in your state of residence or state of past employment. You should bear in mind that you’re qualified to apply in any of the states you’ve lived and worked. Although you may have other routes to file, most states strongly encourage online applications. You should do it as soon as you possibly can or as soon as the requirements allow. It is also recommended that you apply even if you’re in doubt as to your eligibility. According to Annie Nova, even if you quit your job or were fired, you might still be eligible for weekly checks.

You Can Appeal

To avoid unnecessary delays, endeavor to provide accurate information at the first opportunity. The process does take a bit of time. Don’t stretch it by making avoidable mistakes. It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for claims to be processed. Be patient. If you’re denied, you have the right to appeal. 

If Your Appeal Fails, What Next?

With state rules getting tighter, it isn’t strange for a large percentage of applicants to be denied. Other than ignorance, another reason a lot of persons fail to receive benefits is the rules. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Chaney opines that “the share of jobless people receiving unemployment benefits fell after the 2007-09 recession and has stagnated at a historically low level since.” According to her, in 2018, “28% of jobless people received benefits, down from 37% in 2000 – a period of similarly low unemployment.” She attributed the main reason to states tightening eligibility requirements.

If your appeal fails, there are other opportunities. Some federal agencies offer unemployment education and training programs. These are either free or low-cost to unemployed persons. Self-employed assistance programs are also available and help unemployed workers start their small businesses. Sadly, they’re only available in a handful of states. Good thing, you can take up temporary jobs that are easy to find, to help you meet your needs.

Although there are many obstacles to applying for unemployment benefits, you shouldn’t drop out. Do not also assume that you’re not qualified. Make a difficult period a little easier by getting that check. A check that temporarily replaces part of your wages until you get the next job.