How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?
The U.S. Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements.
Unemployment insurance is a joint state-federal program that provides cash benefits to eligible workers. Each state administers a separate unemployment insurance program, but all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law.
Am I Eligible?
Each state sets its own unemployment insurance benefits eligibility guidelines, but you usually qualify if you:
- Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
- Meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period.” (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.)
- Meet any additional state requirements. Find details of your own state’s program.
How Do I Apply?
To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, claims may be filed in person, by telephone, or online.
- You should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.
- Generally, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, the state unemployment insurance agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states.
- When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.
- It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.
Guidance on Unemployment Insurance Flexibilities During COVID-19 Outbreak
NOTE: Check with your state’s unemployment insurance program regarding the rules in your state.
Federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law provides states flexibility to pay benefits where:
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.
Webpages on this Topic
- The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own (as determined under state law), and meet other eligibility requirements of state law.
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance provides financial assistance to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster declared by the President of the United States.
- The Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program provides benefits for eligible unemployed former civilian federal employees.
- The Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members program provides benefits for eligible ex-military personnel.
- Extended Benefits may be available to workers who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment.
- Trade Readjustment Allowances are income support to persons who have exhausted Unemployment Compensation and whose jobs were affected by foreign imports.
- Self-Employment Assistance offers dislocated workers the opportunity for early re-employment.
- The U.S. Department of Labor collaborates with our state partners to identify several robust strategies that focus on the prevention of overpayments and will yield the highest impact in reducing unemployment insurance improper payment rates.
Through American Job Centers, all citizens can access services tailored to their individual needs. This includes employment and job training services, career planning and guidance and much more.
CareerOneStop provides online tools to assist workers with finding a job, utilizing available training opportunities or conducting career planning. There is no cost to businesses or workers who use this service.
The Department of Labor’s toll-free call center can assist workers and employers with questions about job loss, layoffs, business closures, unemployment benefits and job training: 1-877-US-2JOBS (TTY: 1-877-889-5627).
Additional information on topics relevant to the unemployed can be found on the Department of Labor’s web interface, Find It! By Audience – Job Seekers/Unemployed.