Unemployment benefits provide individuals with partial wages if they lose their job (without having been fired). However, some people are reluctant to accept an unemployment. They feel it’s a “handout” or somehow indicative of a personal failing. The bottom line is this – while you were working, you were paying into the unemployment pool. So if it helps, look at unemployment benefits as reclaiming some of your own hard-earned money.
Here’s how to get it back:
Gather the required documents/information
Before contacting the appropriate agency, gather information that might be required of you during the application process. This usually includes the normal identifying information like Social Security number or driver’s license number, but can also include dates and contact information of former employment, your earnings for the past two years, and the Federal ID number for the former employer (found on your W-2 tax form). You should also have handy the financial institution account information for the account where you would like your money deposited, since most states offer direct deposit for unemployment benefits.
Apply immediately with the unemployment insurance program for the state where you worked since it can take 2-3 weeks for the payments to start. After you find your state agency, you may be able to apply online or over the phone, depending on the state’s rules.
Keep looking for work
Be aware that should you receive unemployment benefits, you may need to provide proof that you are actively seeking work. You may also be asked to file a claim once or twice a month to continue to receive benefits, so mark your calendar accordingly. It’s a good idea to also register with the state’s employment services office to make yourself aware of any free help you may be eligible for while you’re between jobs.
As always, watch out for scams and only use legitimate resources to apply for new jobs or unemployment benefits. Visit the Texas Workforce Commission COVID-19 Resources for Job Seekers and this flowchart on understanding the CARES Act. Our partner in financial education, BALANCE, also has many resources to help you and get you started.