How Long Can I Collect Unemployment

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If you're wondering, "How long can I collect unemployment?" the answer depends on the state in which you live. The federal government sponsors the unemployment insurance program, but the details are left up to the states to decide.

Determining Whether You Are Eligible

Before you get to the question, "How long can I collect unemployment?" you'll need to determine whether you're eligible for unemployment at all. Some of the guidelines include:

  • You have to have been terminated from a job through no fault of your own. For example, those who were part of a mass layoff could be eligible. That does not mean, however, that you have to have been part of a mass layoff. Even if you were the only person at your office whose employment was terminated, you may still be eligible.
  • You have to have worked at least 12 of the last 15 months.
  • In some cases, you could have resigned from your position and still be eligible, though that will depend on the rules within your state and your case.
  • You must be available for full-time work and actively seeking a position.
  • You have to complete all of the weekly tasks mandated by your unemployment office, including filing your claims on time and participating in any required services.

So How Long Can I Collect Unemployment?

In most states, the maximum is 26 weeks. However, there are extensions available that run from 13 to 20 weeks long. Those are usually mainly available if overall unemployment is high in the state or the country. The basic program includes 13 weeks (all 13 weeks are not guaranteed for all cases); it is up to the state whether or not to volunteer to supply the additional seven weeks of unemployment benefits.

Since unemployment benefits could shift with the economic situation of the state or country, the best way to find out how long you can collect them is to contact your local unemployment office for the most up-to-date information.

Special Types of Compensation

Self Employment Allowance

This program was put in place in order to encourage the unemployed to start their own businesses. Instead of paying the traditional unemployment benefits, the states assist by giving the individuals self-employed allowances equal to the unemployment benefit amount her or she would normally receive. It is not in place in all states and individuals who do benefit from this program have to have been deemed likely to exhaust the regular unemployment benefits.

Trade Readjustment Allowances

Trade Readjustment Allowances are extensions given to former employees who have exhausted the normal unemployment benefits and whose jobs were lost or severely cut back in hours because of foreign imports. These benefits may include paid training for a new job, relocation costs, or financial assistance in conducting a job search in another area.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

If you lost your job permanently or temporarily due to a major disaster in your area (declared by the President), you could qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. This only goes into effect if you are not eligible for the regular unemployment benefits. This type of assistance can last for up to 26 weeks.

Final Thoughts

For the most updated information, contact your local unemployment office. If you meet all of the eligibility requirements, you can count on up to 26 weeks. Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for a few more weeks of benefits, though that usually has more to do with your state's unemployment rate at the time than your specific case. You'll be required to search for a job every week you collect unemployment and turn in your claims forms on time. Visit your unemployment office or the appropriate unemployment benefits website for your state to determine your eligibility and in some cases, go ahead and submit a claim as soon as possible.

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How Long Can I Collect Unemployment