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How To Apply For Unemployment And Keep Your Benefits

Updated on March 1, 2009

If you've just lost your job and you're wondering how to apply for unemployment your not alone. The number of people who have been laid off and lost their jobs due to the failing US economy is steadily growing. I am also just another statistic having lost my job in the beginning of Feburary.

This is not my first time on unemployment. I went through this same thing at the begining of the last year after losing my job. I spent almost the full 6 months on unemployment before finding my dream job. Too bad I lost that one too. But, as a second timer to this unemployment thing, I know this time how unemployment works, whereas last time, I was just as clueless as the rest.

Losing You Job Sucks! But Unemployment Benefits Can Help!
Losing You Job Sucks! But Unemployment Benefits Can Help!

How To Apply For Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits for workers are handled at the state level. You must find your states unemployment agency and apply using whatever methods they allow. In Washington state, unemployment benefits can be applied for by phone, by Internet, or in person at a local worksource office.

These methods may differ from state to state. In order to find your states website go to google and type in your state and UI or your state and unemployment. This will direct you to the website that will tell you all the rules required in order to apply and how to do so.

Because there are so many people out their trying to figure out how to apply for unemployment benefits and start their own claim, if the option is available to do so online, take it. State Unemployment agencies are barely handling the calls they are getting in. If you are unable to file your unemployment claim online or are unsure how, expect to wait a long time before getting someone at your state unemployment office to be able to take your call. Be patient.

Before you even start to apply you will want to have the following available. Check your states unemployment insurance website to be sure what is requested as this may be different per state.

  • You social security number, address, and contact information
  • your most recent pay stubs or recent W-2, this is to assess an approx amount of your monthly earnings.
  • The names, addresses, and contact numbers for recent employers in the past 2 years.

Not everyone is eligible for unemployment. Read your states rules closely to save you time waiting to find out if your claim is accepted if you can already see that your not eligible. If your not honestly sure if you eligible, try to file a claim. Your states unemployment agency will go through their procedure to determine if you are or not.

File Your Claims Honestly And Accurately

This may differ between states, but in Washington, each week even before a decision has been made about your unemployment benefits, you will need to file a claim. The easiest way to do this is online through the state unemployment agencies website. If this is not available or if you are not able to access the Internet, you can also do so by phone. You must answer the questions honestly and accurately, not doing so can result in a loss of a weeks benefits, or the entirety of your benefits.

Keep accurate logs of all your job searches. Your states unemployment agency can request to see them at anytime and will inform you of such by mail. I was randomly selected twice during my time on unemployment to show my job logs. Because I did the majority of my job searches online, I made copies of the job listing and of the e-mail I sent to the company that had my resume attached. This backed up my job logs to show that I was keeping everything organized and that my unemployment office did not need to look further into my logs because I could show I was doing them correctly. Always provide proof when available for your job logs, and keep record of everything you do. 

You Can Lose Your Benefits Or Have To Pay Them Back

The first time I was required to show proof of my job logs, I messed up and got confused about my appointment day. My mother was having major surgery and due to stress, I spaced out on which day was supposed to be my appointment to meet with the Work-Source officer who was handling my unemployment case. I called the next day to cancel my appt. and found out that my appt was actually supposed to be the day before. My no show was already reported and as a result I had to show not just the requested weeks job log, but all of my job logs since starting on unemployment. Because it was determined that my absentmindedness wasn't a good enough reason for not showing up to the first appointment, I should not receive payment for that week. At the end of my time on unemployment I was required to pay back the unemployment benefits for that week.

When the second request to have a look at a weeks worth of job logs came up, you can bet I was at that appointment early with excatly what was expected form me.

Your states unemployment office follows strict guidelines. This is not school, they do not make exceptions no matter what your note from home says. Follow the rules closely and take this very seriously! If you file your claims as requested, show up for any requested appointments, make your job searches as required, and do whatever your states unemployment office says, you should have no problem getting and keeping your benefits. 

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