Learn About Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are designed to provide out-of-work individuals with temporary assistance while they search for new jobs.

The unemployment program allows states to create and administer their own agencies.

The process of getting benefits starts with an initial unemployment claim, which the state agency uses to determine a claimant’s eligibility and benefit amount.

Once a claimant begins receiving unemployment insurance (UI), he or she will need to learn how to make weekly claims and perform job searches and other actions to remain eligible.

In the event of an overpayment, beneficiaries are expected to act immediately to correct the error.

Similarly, claimants are responsible for letting the unemployment office know when they have accepted a job so that their benefits can be terminated.

Below, learn more about UI, including the history of the program as well as its purpose and function today.

History of Unemployment Benefits

The unemployment insurance act was passed in 1935 in an effort to curb the ripple effects of job loss.

When workers are unable to find jobs, it affects their buying power and hurts the economy as a whole. With UI benefits, though, workers receive enough benefits to pay for the basic necessities, which allows them to spend more time searching for another job.

Before the UI act passed in 1935, states made minimal effort to establish their own unemployment programs. Part of the issue was that states feared they would put employers at a disadvantage by charging a tax to fund UI.

However, with federal oversight, states were able to implement UI programs without creating unfair competition in the job market.

Learn About Changes to the Unemployment Benefits Program

The policies for UI insurance benefits have changed many times in response to labor trends and fluctuations in the unemployment rate.

For example, in times of high unemployment, federal laws have been enacted to allow claimants to receive UI for a longer period of time.

Major changes, such as the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, have had significant implications for the UI program. For example, the act altered how unemployment overpayment issues were handled.

Related Article: How to Organize Your Job Search

While there have been many changes at the federal level, states have also amended their unemployment laws individually to meet the needs of workers and employers.

For example, several states have shortened the maximum amount of time that workers can claim UI from 26 weeks to as little as 12 weeks in some states.

Unemployment Statistics

Looking at the current unemployment rate provides valuable insight into the job market. The unemployment rate by state varies, but overall, the U.S. is currently seeing the lowest rate of unemployment in nearly 50 years.

In periods of low unemployment, the number of people who claim UI tends to go down as well. In 2018, there are nearly 14 percent fewer unemployment claims compared to the previous year.

The unemployment rate varies from one state to the next, so does the number of people who need UI. However, states with the highest rates of unemployment do not always have the greatest number of claimants overall.

For example, California has more than 300,000 claimants, yet its unemployment rate is currently lower than many other states. Alaska, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi are currently experiencing the highest rates of unemployment in the U.S.

How to File Weekly Unemployment Claim Forms

Regardless of whether you live in a state with a high rate of unemployment or not, you will want to learn how to file for benefits if you have lost your job. After making your initial claim, note that it is also necessary to submit an unemployment weekly claim to maintain your eligibility for benefits.

A weekly unemployment claim includes basic information about requirements, such as whether you are available for work and what steps you have taken to try and find unemployment.

To claim weekly unemployment benefits, you also need to report all of your income, as it can affect the amount of compensation you are eligible for.

Income from wages, tips, holiday pay, vacation pay and even severance pay can reduce the amount of UI insurance benefits that you are allowed to receive in any given week.

Each state has its own criteria for evaluating UI amounts, but it is important that you submit information on anything that could affect your benefit amount.

Failing to send a complete report each week can lead to you losing your eligibility for benefits overall.

Unemployment Job Search Requirements

Once you qualify for an unemployment payment, you will need to maintain your eligibility by looking for work and keeping track of your efforts.

Doing a regular unemployment job search is essential if you wish to continue receiving benefits. In most cases, you will be expected to record your activities in a log, which the unemployment agency may ask to see if it needs to verify any of your information.

A variety of activities, such as submitting your resume, attending an interview or talking to a career counselor may count as a job search activity.

In addition to keeping a work search log, you also need to be able to accept any reasonable job offer that may come your way.

Each state has its own criteria for what constitutes a “reasonable” offer, but in general, it will include any job that pays close to the amount of your current UI.

How to Handle Unemployment Overpayments

Paying back unemployment may be necessary if you accidentally receive too much compensation.

In many cases, the unemployment agency will catch the error and notify you in writing that you have received an overpayment. However, it is also possible that you may realize the error on your own.

In such cases, it is important that you report the excess payment to the agency as soon as possible. Unemployment overpayments can happen for a variety of reasons, but no matter the cause, you should always expect to pay the money back.

In many cases, the state will simply deduct the excess amount from any future payments that you may receive. However, if you are no longer eligible to get UI, then you may need to repay the balance of the overpayment on your own.

How to Cancel Unemployment

If you are wondering how to stop unemployment benefits when you get a job, the process is easy. In most states, all you need to do is stop making your weekly claim.

You generally do not need to notify the unemployment office in any way that you have received a job offer and no longer need benefits. In any case, it is important that you do not make a claim for UI if you get a job that pays more than your weekly benefit amount or otherwise makes you ineligible to continue getting UI.

If you have just received a job offer, you should report your wages for the week that they were earned, not the week when you receive your first paycheck.

Unemployment Fraud Penalties

Unemployment fraud is a serious matter that can result in civil or even criminal charges depending on the circumstances.

To avoid being investigated by unemployment agencies, it is important that you report your income carefully and notify the agency of any important changes to your situation, such as accepting a job, getting a pay increase or changing your work hours.

Overall, any time you knowingly report false information in order to get benefits, you could be committing fraud.

Related Article: Unemployment Resources

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