Routine expenses add up quickly, and the unexpected can send your budget into a tailspin. Temporary government benefit programs, like unemployment and cash assistance, can help keep your finances afloat while looking for long-term solutions.
You can also apply for help covering food and health care costs for you and your children. Government insurance programs provide free and affordable medical coverage if you have a qualifying household income. Check out these cash and benefit programs that can help you pay for groceries, rent, medical insurance, and more.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Unemployment Compensation (UC) – depending on where you live – may pay a portion of your income while you are out of work. UI and UC payments provide temporary financial assistance if you lose your job and meet your state agency’s eligibility requirements.
The government charges most employers a tax to fund the state’s unemployment benefits program. Contrary to popular belief, UI and UC payments do not come from the income taxes you and other employees pay.
To make an unemployment claim, you must have worked for a minimum number of hours per week for a certain number of weeks. Similarly, your state may have income minimums. Each state sets the minimum working time and wage limits.
You should file for unemployment if separation from your job was not your fault. Here are some examples of qualifying separations of employment:
· Layoffs – A layoff is when an employer lets go of workers because their services are no longer needed. This can mean the involuntary termination of one or multiple workers.
· Furloughs – Employers may mandate temporary unpaid leave with the assumption that employees will return to work.
· Reduction of hours – Like layoffs, employers may change workers’ status from full-time to part-time.
You may be at fault for employment separation if you voluntarily quit without good cause, or your employer fired you for misconduct, such as violations of company policy. However, you may still qualify for benefits after quitting or involuntary termination in some cases, such as:
· Voluntary termination for just reasons – Although the state does not reward workers who quit, former employees may still qualify if they left for valid cause, such as an employer asking them to do something illegal,
· Wrongful termination – When an employer fires a worker for illegal reasons – such as discrimination or complaining about workplace issues – the worker may still qualify for UC payments, but they may need to go through a trial if the former employer contests the claim.
The state may also deny your unemployment claim if your employment status disqualifies you, like being an independent contractor, self-employed, or freelancer. In 2020 and 2021, the government expanded unemployment eligibility through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA unemployment requirements increase eligibility to contracted workers, but that unemployment extension is no longer available.
If the state approves your application, you must submit an unemployment weekly claim to continue to prove you qualify for payments. The weekly certification is your confirmation that you continue to meet the requirements and are looking for employment. Most states let you recertify for unemployment insurance online, by phone, or through the mail.
The state will send your unemployment direct deposit or check for each week you recertify your eligibility for benefits.
Most states set the maximum number of weeks to collect UC payments between 19 and 26 weeks. Your state may let you file an unemployment extension during state or national disasters – such as the federally declared COVID-19 pandemic – or high unemployment periods.
Collecting unemployment benefits may coincide with cash assistance from another government program. You can apply for this next program regardless if you are unemployed, underemployed, or employed but still financially struggling.