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How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance

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To apply for UI, you must follow your state’s guidelines, which you can link to via the DOL website, CareerOneStop. Depending on the state, you can file a claim in person, online, or over the phone. When you file a claim, you must provide your Social Security number, contact information, and details about your former employment.

In the case of the pandemic, there are several reasons due to COVID-19 that qualify you for unemployment, outside of regular unemployment criteria. These include:

Having to leave your job because you or a member of your family has contracted COVID-19
Having to provide childcare because your child’s school is closed due to COVID-19
Resigning for a good cause like unsafe work conditions or because you are denied accommodations to work from home, in the case that you have a family member with an increased risk of death or serious illness if they contract COVID-19
You cannot claim pandemic benefits if you resign or are allowed to work from home and simply don’t want to. You must provide proof you are actively looking for work opportunities after you file for unemployment, although this requirement has not been as strongly enforced during the pandemic. And if you are a freelancer, you can still qualify for benefits if you lose your job by applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.11

While every state has its own eligibility rules, there are a few universal steps to take to file for unemployment insurance, no matter where you reside. Before you apply, collect all the appropriate paperwork. Be prepared to file your address, telephone number, and your Social Security number. You will also need to provide the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and your employers’ identification numbers (EIN) from the past 18 months. You need to provide your dates of employment and your earnings (W-2s and pay stubs) for the past 18 months.12

When you have all the necessary information, you can apply online for your benefits. You will have to apply in the state that you work, not the state where you live. So if you work in New York but live in New Jersey, you will need to file for unemployment benefits in New York State.

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