FAQ: What Happens When You File for Unemployment?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Losing a job can be a stressful time, but assistance is available for qualified candidates. Learning how to navigate filing for unemployment benefits can help you receive the help you need to pay bills, shop for groceries and afford medical care. The sooner you file for unemployment, the sooner you can receive payments. In this article, we discuss what happens when you file for unemployment.

Read more: Guide to Unemployment Benefits

What is filing for unemployment?

Filing for unemployment refers to applying for unemployment insurance benefits when you lose your job. Each state oversees its own unemployment processes and has different requirements for applicants. Often, you will need the following information to file for unemployment:

  • Your name and contact information

  • Your address

  • Your social security number

  • Your employers from the past year

  • Your earnings from the past year, including W2s

  • Reason for job loss

What happens after you file for unemployment?

Here are the steps required to process your unemployment benefits:

  1. Confirm receipt of your application. After you file for unemployment, you should get confirmation that your application was received. If you submitted your application online, you should receive a receipt immediately. If you mailed your application, consider following up with your state unemployment agency after one week to confirm receipt.

  2. Interview with your state's unemployment agency. Some states require interviews before approval, which often take place over the phone, to ensure your information is accurate. Interviews help unemployment offices detect discrepancies and avoid insurance fraud.

  3. Wait for approval. Your state office verifies the information on your application. In some states, you may need to wait a week from the date of your application before receiving benefits. This means that the first date you may qualify for assistance is one week after your application date.

  4. Receive your monetary record. You should receive a monetary record that includes the details of your application and outlines the assistance you qualify for, including the effective date of your claim, your employers and wages during your base period and the maximum amount of benefits you're eligible for. You should review this information carefully.

  5. Receive payment. States usually disperse unemployment benefits bi-weekly. Some states may give you the option to receive weekly payments if you sign up for direct deposit.

  6. Continue your job search. After applying for unemployment, you need to prove that you are looking for a job. Follow your state's recommendation to maintain unemployment eligibility. You may need to provide dates you contacted employers, which employers you've contacted, types of jobs you're looking for and any interviews you've had.

  7. Attend required training or meetings. Some states require recipients of unemployment attend job training courses, like resume writing and interview assistance. You may also need to meet with agents at your state's unemployment office to discuss your job search.

How long does unemployment take to get approved?

Typically, it takes about 10 days from the date you file for unemployment to be approved for benefits. However, the waiting period may be longer if there is a significant increase in the number of applications. Once you are approved, it may take two to four weeks before you receive your first payment. Some states require a one-week waiting period from the date of your application to the date you are eligible for benefits. For example, if you applied for unemployment on March 1, your first payment period begins on March 8. However, some states are waiving this requirement due to the effects of COVID-19.

How do I know if my unemployment was approved?

You should receive a confirmation that your application was received by your state's unemployment office. Once a decision is made, the office should contact you to let you know if you are approved. You may receive a letter, email or phone call.

What if I get denied for unemployment?

If your application for unemployment is denied, you can appeal this decision. Contact your state's unemployment office or check the website for instructions on how to appeal a denial.

Will my former employer know I filed for unemployment?

Your most recent employer receives a notice when you file for unemployment. They have the option to accept or contest the claim. Your former employer may contest the claim if:

  • You were not an employee during the dates on your application

  • You were fired

  • You were an independent contractor

Once the state approves or denies your application, it notifies your former employer.

Read more: Q&A: How Long Do You Have to Work to Get Unemployment?

Can collecting unemployment impact your credit?

Collecting unemployment does not impact your credit directly. Whether you are receiving unemployment benefits does not appear on your credit report or affect your credit score.

Being unemployed may impact your credit indirectly in the following ways:

  • Using credit cards more frequently or having credit cards near their limit can lower your credit score.

  • Applying for new credit can affect your credit score.

  • Missing payments on loans or credit cards can impact your credit.

What factors can disqualify you for unemployment?

You may be disqualified from receiving unemployment for the following reasons:

  • You are responsible for losing your job. To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you need to prove that you lost your job through no fault of your own. Individuals who quit their jobs or are let go due to misconduct are not eligible for unemployment, but those experiencing layoffs, having reduced hours or being placed on furlough are usually eligible.

  • Y**ou did not work enough in the previous year.** You will need to meet length of employment requirements set by your state to qualify for unemployment. The state looks at the amount of time you worked in the previous four of five completed quarters, which is considered the base period. This means that if you apply for unemployment in January, your base period is the four completed quarters prior to January, or January through December of the previous year.

  • You did not earn enough in the previous year. The earning requirements during your base period differ by state.

  • You are unable to work. You must be physically and mentally capable of working in order to receive unemployment benefits.

  • You are not actively seeking employment. In order to continue receiving unemployment benefits, states require proof that you are looking for a job. You must also explain if you turn down employment offers.

  • You are self-employed. Generally, individuals who are self-employed or working as contractors do not qualify for unemployment assistance. However, changes to unemployment policies in some states due to COVID-19 allow contractors and other self-employed individuals to receive unemployment.

  • You receive a severance package. Some states disqualify individuals who receive payouts from former employers, such as severance pay, from receiving unemployment benefits.

  • You find a job. If you get a full-time job or earn more than the maximum allowed by your state, you no longer qualify for unemployment.

    Read more: A Guide to Collecting Unemployment for the Self-Employed

How much money will I get from unemployment?

Policies vary by state, but generally, the amount of assistance you receive is a percentage of your earnings from the past year. In most states, this percentage is between 40 and 60% of the amount you earned during your base period.

When you file your taxes, you must report unemployment benefits as earnings. You may also consider asking your unemployment office to withhold taxes from your unemployment payments.

How long will I get unemployment?

Each state provides different term lengths for unemployment benefits, but most offer payments for 12-28 weeks. You may also qualify for an extension in some states.

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