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FILING AN UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIM
Eligibility

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Basic Eligibility Requirements

You can receive benefits if you meet a series of legal eligibility requirements:

  • You must be monetarily eligible.

  • You must be totally or partially unemployed.

  • You must have an approvable job separation; the law imposes a disqualification for certain types of separations.

  • You must meet certain weekly legal requirements; weekly requirements include being physically and mentally able to work, being available for and seeking work*, and filing your weekly claim for benefits on a timely basis.

  • If you are identified as likely to exhaust unemployment benefits and are enrolled in the worker profiling and reemployment services program, you must fully participate in all assessment interviews, orientation, and referred reemployment services.

*Generally, an individual must be available for and seeking full-time work.  Under certain conditions, a person who has a disability may be able to limit his or her availability for work to part time only.  A claimant can qualify for unemployment compensation by: (1) providing documentation from a licensed physician which establishes that (a) he or she has a physical or mental impairment that is chronic or expected to be long-term or permanent, and (b) the impairment leaves him or her unable to work full-time, and (2) demonstrating that the impairment does not effectively remove him or her from the labor force.

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Monetary Eligibility

What wages are used in determining monetary eligibility?

Wages are drawn from a one-year period (four calendar quarters) to calculate eligibility. This one-year period is called the Base Period. By law, neither the quarter in which your claim is initiated nor the calendar quarter immediately preceding that quarter can be used for this calculation. Therefore, the Base Period normally will be the first four of the last five previously-completed calendar quarters.

  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: January, February, or March - The Base Period will be the first nine months (Jan-Sept) of last year and the last three months (Oct-Dec) of the year before last;

  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: April, May, or June - The Base Period will be all twelve months (Jan-Dec) of last year;

  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: July, August, or September - The Base Period will be the first three months of the current year (Jan-Mar) and the last nine months (Apr-Dec) of the last year;

  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: October, November, or December - The Base Period will be the first six months (Jan-June) of the current year and last six months of the last year.

  • Commencing with benefit years effective on or after January 5, 2003, individuals who cannot establish monetary eligibility using wages in the previously described base period will use an alternate base period. The alternate base period consists of the four calendar quarters immediately preceding the quarter in which the claim is filed.

Weekly Benefit Rate

The maximum weekly benefit rate is $594.00 as of October 5, 2014.

How is the weekly entitlement computed?

The amount of weekly entitlement is the Weekly Benefit Rate. This figure is the amount to which you are entitled before any reductions are applied. This figure does not include any dependency allowance.

The method of computing the Weekly Benefit Rate is contained in the law and can be generally summarized as follows:

The two highest of the four calendar quarters that make up your Base Period are used to determine your Weekly Benefit Rate. The average of the gross wages received in the two highest quarters is divided by 26. If wages are only received in one quarter, that quarter plus zero is averaged and divided by 26.

Example:

Highest quarter of earnings = $4,000
Second highest quarter = $3,908
Total = $7,908
Divided by 2, equals average of 2 high quarters = $3,954
Divided by 26 = $152.08
Weekly Benefit Rate (rounded down) = $152

The average of total wages in the two high quarters = $3,954, divided by 26 = $152.08 (rounded down) is a Weekly Benefit Rate of $152. The Weekly Benefit Rate may range from a minimum of $15 to a current maximum of $594 as of October 5, 2014.

NOTE: You must have earned at least forty (40) times your Weekly Benefit Rate during the Base Period in order to be eligible to receive this amount. Based on the above example, you must have total Base Period earnings of $6080 (152 x 40).

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Benefit Formula For Construction Workers

Effective with Benefit Years commencing on or after April 1, 1996, individuals will be identified as construction workers using the National Council of Compensation Insurance Classification codes reported by the employer. Such individuals will be entitled to a Weekly Benefit Rate based on 1/26 of the total wages paid during the highest quarter of wages in his or her Base Period.

Example:
Highest quarter of earnings = $4,000
Divided by 26 = $153.85
Rounded down to = $153

The total Base Period wages would have to equal at least 40 times the Weekly Benefit Rate of $153, or $6,120, to qualify.

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Dependency Allowance

Who can be claimed as a dependent?

You may be eligible for a dependency allowance of $15 weekly for each child (including step-child or child for whom you act as guardian) for whom you are the whole or main support, and who falls into one of the following categories:

  • Under 18 years of age.
  • Under 21 years of age and a full-time student.
  • A mentally or physically handicapped child of any age.

Either the mother or father of a child may collect the dependency allowance. However, if both parents receive benefits for the same week, only one may receive an allowance for the child. You may be eligible for a dependency allowance of $15 for your spouse if, at the beginning of your benefit year, your spouse is unemployed, lives in the same household with you, and:

  • Has not worked during the past three months; or
  • Is pregnant; or
  • Has a mental or physical disability expected to last for a long or indefinite time.

Total dependency allowance cannot be paid for more than five dependents ($75). 

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Maximum Entitlement

How long can I collect?

You can collect the equivalent of 26 weeks of total unemployment benefits on a claim. A claim is in effect for a one-year period. Within that claim year, maximum benefits would be 26 times your Weekly Benefit Rate. Using the previous example, with a Weekly Benefit Rate of $152, you would be entitled to collect $3,952. If you receive less than total benefits for a week due to a reduction in payment, you may receive more than 26 weeks but not more than the maximum amount. Payments may be reduced by part-time earnings, receipt of pension or vacation pay, severance pay, or worker's compensation.

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Who Can File

Who is eligible to file for Unemployment Compensation Benefits?

In order to be eligible to file for Unemployment Compensation Benefits, you must be totally or partially unemployed. If you are separated from employment or are employed or self-employed during any week on less than a full-time basis, you may file a claim. If you are working less than full-time, the amount of unemployment benefits that can be paid depends on your gross earnings for each week. A week is defined as a calendar week which begins Sunday and ends Saturday.

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Partial Unemployment Benefits

How do I qualify for partial Unemployment Compensation benefits?

To receive partial benefits, you must establish monetary eligibility and:

  • You must be able to work and available for work as defined by law.
  • The number of hours you are working or worked during a week must be less than the number of hours customarily considered full-time for that job and/or employer. 
  • The reason for working less than full-time must be lack of work or because the job is part-time by choice of the employer.

How are partial Unemployment Compensation Benefits computed? Your payment for partial benefits will be figured by taking two-thirds of your gross earnings for the week claimed and deducting that amount from your Weekly Benefit Rate.

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Approvable Job Separation

What is an approvable job separation?

If you file for Unemployment Compensation Benefits after quitting a job or being discharged (for reasons other than lack of work or job elimination), you must attend a hearing to determine eligibility for benefits.

If you QUIT your job, the purpose of the hearing is to give you an opportunity to establish that you had good cause attributable to the employer for quitting the job. There are very few non-job-related reasons for quitting under which you may be approved for benefits. These include quitting to care for a spouse, child, or parent with an illness or disability, and quitting because of a loss of transportation other than your own personally-owned vehicle, provided you are otherwise eligible. Keep in mind that you do have to be able and available for full-time work in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If you RETIRE from your job, the purpose of the hearing is to give you an opportunity to establish that the retirement was not voluntary, or if it was, that your intent was not to withdraw from the labor market at the time you left the job. If the reason for the retirement is because the job has become unsuitable in light of your physical condition and the degree of risk to health and safety, you may be eligible for benefits provided you requested other work from the employer that was suitable and the employer did not offer you such work. If your separation was not voluntary, you would be eligible for benefits provided you are able and available for full-time work. In certain instances, a retirement will be treated as involuntary if the retirement was induced by the employer in an effort to close a facility or eliminate a worker's position, or if the worker reasonably believed the employment would be severed if he/she rejected the employer's inducement to retire. The portion of your pension benefits that relates to your employer's contribution is deducted from your Weekly Benefit Rate.

If you were DISCHARGED, the hearing will develop information to determine if the discharge was due to conduct in the course of employment which constituted deliberate misconduct, a single knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly-enforced rule or policy, larceny of property or services whose value exceeded $25 or theft of currency of any value, or felonious conduct. If you were discharged for absenteeism, your employer must show that you were absent without either good cause for the absence or notice to the employer which you could have reasonably provided under the circumstances for three separate instances within a twelve month period.

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Weekly Requirements

You must be physically and mentally able to work during each week for which you claim benefits. You must be able to work and available for work as defined by law, during each week for which you are claiming benefits. This means that you must be ready, willing, and able to accept any suitable work. You must make reasonable efforts to find employment each week. You may be excused from this requirement if you are participating in approved job training. If you are enrolled in the worker profiling and reemployment services program, you must fully participate in all assessment interviews, orientation, and referred reemployment services. Finally, you must file your weekly claims for benefits on a timely basis. For the majority of individuals, the weekly filing of claims for benefits is done via a Voice Response Unit (VRU).

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