Whether your corporate office just had some reshuffling or the plant that you worked at completely shut down, unemployment benefits are there to provide some temporary assistance while you get situated.
Most states will offer unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. How much you qualify for each week depends on your prior earnings in the previous year, which is usually a percentage.
It differs by state and its worth checking exactly what your states guidelines are.
It’s time to hop in and learn how you can maximize the use of these benefits. Do not miss secret #3 or you might risk forfeiting your unemployment benefits – or worse yet, having to pay them back!
Secret #1: File for Benefits as Soon as You Lose Your Job
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you either fear for your company’s longevity, your current position, or are recently unemployed.
Don’t fret! By starting the process early, you’ll get a jump start to start receiving benefits as soon as possible.
Begin by contacting your State’s Unemployment Insurance Agency – in most states, its super easy to accomplish this since you can file via phone or even over the internet.
Starting the process early is important – after all, the more time you’re able to collect before eventually finding a job or no longer needing benefits means less stress on your personal financial life.
Secret #2: Make a Note to Yourself to File Every Single Week
At this point, let’s say you’ve officially qualified for unemployment benefits. A period of two to three weeks has passed and you’ve received your first check. Great! What’s next?
Your interaction with your state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency is not over yet.
Every single week that you want to receive benefits, you’ll have to file a claim. We’ll go more into this in the all-important secret #3 which is next, so be sure to check it out as to not miss out on your benefits!
Secret #3: Keep a Work Search Log – Always!
The work search log is your golden ticket to maximizing your unemployment benefits – or even just potentially finding a job.
Once you’ve started collecting benefits, its the most crucial detail to pay attention to if you anticipate needing to collect in future weeks.
Along with actually filing the claim, the work search log is your most important tool to sleeping easy at night.
Collecting requires you to be actively looking for work – and recording your searches.
Most states will ask that you record three separate searches on three different days each time you file a claim. Keep these in your log so that if you are ever audited – randomly – you can provide them with the information they need.
Failure to provide a work log on request is cause for the immediate ceasing of benefits – and if you can’t prove you’ve looked for any work at all, they may just require you to pay all of your benefits back.
Secret #4: Choose to Receive Benefits Without the Taxes Withheld
If you’re seriously pressed for money and need every last dollar you can get, then one possible option that a lot of people glance over is the ability to receive benefits without the taxes being withheld.
This is particularly useful if you are falling behind in bills or know that your chances of getting a job relatively quickly are high – since the taxes you don’t pay now will have to be paid by the time next April rolls around. Tread carefully here, but don’t overlook it if you really need the money!
Secret #5: Don’t Be Afraid to File for Extended Benefits
You’ve exhausted your state’s limit, either via the 26 week limit or the monetary cap, so what’s next?
If you still can’t find work, a good option is to look at extended benefits. Through extended benefits, you can gain an additional 13 weeks – which is over 3 months – of benefits when a state is experiencing a time of high unemployment. Is that not enough?
In extremely tumultuous times, states may pay up to an additional 7 weeks on top of that.
Secret #6: If Your Hours Have Been Reduced (rather than laid off), Look into Shared Work Unemployment Benefits
When employers can no longer afford to pay employees for the cumulative amount of work they have each week, and layoffs are lurking on the horizon, one option is a Shared Work Program.
Rather than laying off any one employee, they reduce the hours of a group, department, or shift of employees.
Even though you’re technically still employed, If this happens to you, you are eligible to collect a portion of your unemployment compensation.
Secret #7: Participate in Your State’s Free Programs Offered to Those Who File
In most states, there’s a ton of free programs for you to participate in once you’ve filed for uninsurance benefits.
Consider looking at training programs, job centers, career counselors, and assistance to those who want to start their own business. It may be the perfect time to transition into a new industry or make the leap into a better, higher paying position than you had before.
Secret #8: Map Out Your Week with Which Jobs You’ll Apply To
Maximizing your benefits can also mean maximizing the amount of time you have each week to do what needs to be done.
Whether you’re searching for 3 jobs per week or 30 jobs, map out in the beginning of the week which days you’ll look and how many jobs you’ll apply to each day.
Remember, you usually have to actively search on at 3 separate days, so if you figure this out ahead of time, you’ll have more time to do what you want.
Secret #9: Use the COBRA Program to Continue Health Insurance from Your Former Employer
While this may not be the best option for everybody, it’s something you should certainly consider. COBRA enables you to continue on the health insurance from your previous employer before you parted ways.
This can be beneficial if you have upcoming appointments or immediate health concerns.
While more expensive in the long term, it can be easier than filing for entirely new health insurance prior to finding your next job.
Secret #10: File Your Tax Return, and File Early
It can be easy to forget to file your tax return if you’ve been unemployed for a while. By losing your job partly through the year, chances are you may be moving into a lower income bracket.
And at a lower income bracket, the withholding from your previous job may have been too much, resulting in a big return for you.
This ties into #4. If you don’t have taxes withheld while you’re on unemployment, then that will impact how much you get refunded (or perhaps even owe) come tax season.
Secret #11: Deduct Job Search Expenses from Your Tax Return
While there are a number of free services available through the government for those that are unemployed, sometimes they might not be sufficient for your job hunting needs.
Keeping in mind that search expenses can add up, you can start to deduct these expenses from your next tax return. Consider things like:
– Resume preparation
– Employment/agency fees
– Travel expenses for interviews
Secret #12: File Your Weekly Claim Online – Save Time and Hassle
Most states are notorious for long lines and timely waits at their unemployment office. Chances are, their phone service is not going to be any better. Luckily in today’s age, everything can be automated online.
Although you will need to talk to someone over the phone for your initial filing, simply log in each week online to file a claim for that week – much easier than driving to an office or waiting hours on the phone!
Secret #13: Relax! Take Advantage of the Time That You Have
Take some time to relax. If you’re not hard pressed for money right away and the unemployment benefits are covering your necessities, its okay to take a breather.
As long as you’re available to work and apply to at least three jobs per week (state dependent), then you are free to do whatever you want during that time.
Before you know it, you’ll be back on the grind, so use this free time wisely because it likely won’t last forever.
Whether catching up with some old friends or spending more time at the gym, maximize your free time like you would your benefits.
Unemployment benefits can be a great source of financial assistance while you’re looking for a new job.
However, even after qualifying for benefits, a lot of people simply don’t put in the effort to maximize their benefits – such as not filing a claim each week, keeping a worklog ready, or applying for extended benefits.
There is no shame in maximizing your unemployment benefits while you’re looking for work – take advantage of the helping hand which will you stay afloat in-between jobs.