There is one thing that most states neglect to put right out front and that is that you have to file as soon as you know that you are losing your job!! You do not get paid for any weeks of unemployment that occurred before your filing date.
If this is not the case in other states, please let me know. I didn’t research all fifty states. But I have a feeling it’s the same everywhere, because the government has a vested interest in disqualifying as many people as possible. You do have a right to appeal, but there are deadlines for that, too, and it can seem like a complicated process to the uninitiated (which all people are their first time around).
Unemployment compensation is one of these government “freebies” that the convervatives make such a fuss about. But even they aren’t squawking as much about it these days with unemployment hitting everyone–even them. People are losing jobs through no fault of their own (which is one of the conditions for eligibility–you can’t just quit and then claim unemployment). But those who are the hardest hit are those who weren’t making much to begin with. They rarely have any savings, they were just barely making ends meet and then bam! They’re out of work.
Like most government programs, unemployment compensation is not a cure-all. You only get approximately 50% of what you were getting when you were employed. So if you were barely making it before you lost your job, you’re really screwed, even if you get unemployment. Without it, people could end up on the streets. But frankly, I don’t see how they avoid the streets even with EC, if they were on the edge to begin with. If you find yourself in this position, contact your state’s job and family services department (or whatever they call it in your state). You might qualify for food stamps. You might be able to get your children covered by health insurance. There are options that few people know about, until they have a reason to. Educate yourself. Get on the phone. Surf the Net. And if you’re confused by any of it (and you will be, trust me), keep asking questions.
If you have a little savings or an income from a spouse or partner, you might make it through until you get another job. But even you are entitled to benefits. So, don’t dilly-dally around: register for your benefits ASAP!
For locations of various governmental offices that have to do with employment, go to the U.S. Department of Labor web site.