Common Unemployment Benefits FAQs

We know our readers have various questions regarding the Unemployment Benefits program. We decided to set up this Unemployment Benefits FAQs page to address the most common questions we get.

More questions will be added as and when we receive reader feedback.

Continue reading below to see our full list of the most frequently asked questions about Unemployment Insurance Benefits.

"Unemployment Benefits FAQs"

Unemployment Benefits FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about Unemployment Benefits.

What are Unemployment Insurance Benefits?

Unemployment Insurance (UI) provides unemployment benefits, usually in the form of weekly payments, to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own, and meet certain other eligibility requirements.

Unemployment Insurance is administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor and individual states.

Each state develops their own system for delivering unemployment benefits.

Employers pay unemployment insurance taxes and reimbursements that support unemployment benefit payments.

A common misconception about the Unemployment Insurance program is that employees pay into the program while you were working. That is not true.

Rather, Employer taxes pay for unemployment benefits.

Employees do not pay unemployment taxes and employers cannot deduct unemployment taxes from employees’ paychecks.

Visit your state’s unemployment insurance website to find information on your state’s rules around unemployment benefits.

Also, see our list of unemployment benefits handbooks for all 50 states to learn more about unemployment benefits in your state.

For more information, see our article Unemployment Benefits Guide.

What Information Do I Need to Apply for Unemployment?

State set their own requirements regarding unemployment benefits.

However, while state requirements vary, generally, here’s the list of information you need to apply for unemployment benefits:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license or state ID card number
  • Your complete mailing address, including street, city, state, and ZIP code
  • A telephone number where you can be contacted during business hours
  • The full company names and addresses of all employers that you worked for in the last two years
  • Employer identification number, also known as FEIN number, if available. This number can be found on your W2 or 1099 tax form.
  • First and last day of work.
  • Gross earnings (before taxes) covering the last 2 Years.
  • The reason you left or, if still working, the reason you are working fewer hours


  • If you want to use direct deposit, you will need your bank account number and routing number (otherwise payment will be sent via Unemployment Debit Card).


  • Your Alien number and expiration date from your Employment Authorization Document.

Former Federal Employees

  • Your SF-50 form, SF-8 form, pay stub(s), or W-2 (if you worked in federal employment within the past two years). If this information is unavailable, you may provide it later. Please proceed in filing your claim.

Former Military Personnel

  • If you were in the Military, you will need information from your DD-214 Member 4. If this information is unavailable, you may provide it later. Please proceed in filing your claim.

Union Members

  • Your union name and local number (if you are a member of a union)

How much money will I receive if I file for unemployment benefits?

Generally, your weekly benefit depends on your earnings during the base period, up to a cap set by state law.

Although states differ in how they calculate benefits, a typical formula pays half of the employee’s former weekly wages, up to a maximum amount that varies widely from state to state.

Additionally, to continue receiving unemployment benefits perform the following tasks:

  1. File a claim every week or two.
  2. Look for full-time work (and document your search)
  3. Keep appointment with your local Job Office (if applicable)

What is a base period?

The base period establishes your monetary eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Generally, it is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of your unemployment claim.

Additionally, in most states, you can also qualify for unemployment benefits using an alternative base period which is the last four completed calendar quarters before the start date of your claim.

How long can I continue to collect unemployment benefits?

While state rules vary, generally, unemployment benefits are available for up to 26 weeks.

When unemployment is high, an existing Extended Benefits (EB) program kicks in to add 13 to 20 weeks of extra payments.

Here’s a list of a few states that do not provide the standard 26 weeks of benefits:

    • Arkansas provides up to 16 weeks of regular benefits;
    • Montana provides up to 28 weeks of UI;
    • South Carolina and Missouri provide up to 20 weeks of UI;
    • Florida currently provides up to 19 weeks for claims filed after January 1, 2021;
    • Kansas currently provides up to 16 weeks of UI; and
    • North Carolina currently provides up to 13 weeks for claims filed after July 4, 2021.

What Happens After I Submit My Application for Unemployment?

If you are filing an initial application for Unemployment benefits, you should receive three separate mailings within a few weeks after mailing your application.

Here’s a summary:

An official Notice of Financial/Monetary Determination

This notice tells you how much you’ll potentially receive in unemployment benefits.

When you receive the Notice of Financial Determination, please review it carefully.

If any of the information on your financial determination is incorrect, contact the unemployment office.

If you disagree with the financial determination, follow the instructions in the letter on how to file an appeal.

A Claim Confirmation Letter

The Claim Confirmation Letter will tell you if you are approved or denied benefits.

If approved, the Claim Confirmation Letter will also instruct you when to file your weekly or biweekly claim.

An Unemployment Compensation Handbook

The unemployment handbook provides information regarding the unemployment compensation program in your state and your rights and responsibilities.

Please read and keep this handbook for reference for one year.

How long does it take to get approved for unemployment benefits?

How long it takes to receive Unemployment depends on several factors including the depth of the issue being reviewed by your state’s unemployment agency regarding your application.

However, usually, it takes between three to six weeks.

Due to the high volume of claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some states are handling an unusually large volume of applications.

As a result, it may take longer than six weeks to make a decision on your claim.

What do I need to do to keep my Unemployment Benefit?

To keep receiving unemployment benefits, most states require the following:

  • File weekly or biweekly claims, usually online or by phone.
  • Report any earnings from work you had during the week(s). States have different rules for how much money you can earn while receiving benefits.
  • Report any job offers or job offers you decline during the week.
  • If requested, report to your local Unemployment Insurance claims office or American Job Center on the scheduled day and time. Benefits may be denied for those who do not attend.
  • Some states require registration for work with the State Employment Service, so it can assist you in finding employment.

My state requires me to register for work to be eligible for unemployment benefits. How do I do that?

States have different requirements for unemployment recipients to prove they are ready to work.

Some states have waived these requirements.

To find your state’s requirements, visit your state’s Unemployment Insurance website and look for an FAQ page, or search for ”register for work”.

If you have trouble finding the information, contact your local American Job Center.

Are self-employed individuals and contractors eligible for unemployment benefits?

Traditionally, self-employed individuals and 1099 contractors are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Regular unemployment benefits are available only to those who work for an employer and lose a job through no fault of their own.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government expanded unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to include including independent contractors, sole proprietors, and gig workers.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that provided benefits for self-employed people ended on September 6, 2021.

Do I have to pay tax on unemployment benefits?

You have to report your unemployment benefit payments as income on your federal and (if applicable) state tax returns.

Also, in March 2021, a new law (American Rescue Plan) made the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free for people with incomes of less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only.

You will receive a Form 1099-G from your state’s unemployment agency showing in box 1 the total unemployment compensation paid to you that year.

Report this amount on line 7 of your Schedule 1 (Form 1040).

Can I go back to work part-time and still receive unemployment benefits?

This depends on your state’s unemployment rules.

However, generally, you can continue to receive at least partial unemployment benefits if you return to work part-time.

Most states provide partial benefits to individuals whose work hours have been reduced through no fault or choice of their own.

For example, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if your hours were reduced due to a company being sold, liquidated, or restructured.

Many states also cover employees who have lost their full-time jobs and have partially replaced the lost income with one or more part-time jobs.

Some states even cover individuals who were working two or more part-time jobs and lost one of those jobs.

Visit your state’s unemployment website to find information on your state’s rules around unemployment benefits and part-time work.

Can I get unemployment if I was laid off or had to stop working due to COVID-19?

Most likely, yes. In most states, unemployment benefits are available to those who have stopped working for a coronavirus-related reason.

Acceptable reasons to stop working due to COVID-19 include:

  • Those who are under quarantine by a medical professional or government agency
  • People who were laid off or furloughed by their employer because of COVID-19 concerns
  • Individuals that are caring for a quarantined family member; and
  • Those that are looking after a child whose school has closed.

Do I qualify for unemployment if I quit my job?

No. You usually have to be unemployed “through no fault of your own” to receive benefits, so voluntarily leaving a job would not qualify.

Which state do I file Unemployment Benefit in?

You should file your claim with the state where you worked.

However, if you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, contact the state unemployment agency in the state where you now live for information about how to file your claim with other states.

What disqualifies you from getting unemployment?

There are many reasons you may be deemed ineligible or disqualified from receiving  unemployment benefits

This includes incomplete or inaccurate information.

If you have incomplete or inaccurate information, your state’s unemployment agency will reach out to assist you in completing your application.

Here are the most common reasons you may be denied or disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.

  • Work-related misconduct
  • Voluntary Resignation
  • Not looking for work
  • Being unable to work
  • Refusal to Accept Suitable Work
  • Not Meeting Earnings Requirements
  • Immigration Status
  • Attending School or Training
  • Committing Unemployment Fraud
  • Failure to File Appeal on Time
  • Receiving severance pay

What Can I do if my Unemployment claim is denied?

If you have been denied unemployment compensation benefits, you have a right to appeal.

Also, if you have been allowed benefits, your former employer has the same right to appeal.

If either you or your employer appeals, you will have a hearing with an administrative law judge.

Generally, in most states, your appeal has to be filed within 20 days of the decision.

Your claim then will be scheduled for a formal hearing, which is your only opportunity to submit evidence through testimony and documentation.

After the hearing, the administrative law judge will issue a written decision on your appeal.

Should I Hire An Attorney for the Hearing?

At this stage, hiring an experienced attorney is advisable because they will be able to help you present your case in a legally persuasive manner.

If you think that you were wrongfully terminated, it is especially important to have representation because the unemployment hearing may affect your success with other legal claims.

Unemployment Benefits FAQs Summary

We hope this post on Unemployment Benefits FAQs was helpful.

Still Have Questions?

To go to file for unemployment insurance benefits in your state, click here: How to file for unemployment.

For the phone number to contact your state’s unemployment agency, click here: Unemployment Office Phone Number by State.

To find out the Unemployment Rate in your state, click here: Unemployment rate for all 50 states.

For details about Unemployment Debit Card by state, including the Ways2Go, ReliaCard, and Key2Benefits, click here: Unemployment Debit Cards.

If you have further questions about California Unemployment, Unemployment Benefits, or Unemployment Debit Cards, you can fill out the comment form below and we will answer your question ASAP.

Be sure to check out our other articles on Unemployment Benefits, including:
Whether Unemployment Benefits are Taxable
List of States Extending Unemployment Benefits
Massachusetts DUA Unemployment Debit Card
How to file for Unemployment (in all 50 States)
Unemployment office Phone Number (All 50 States)