File for Unemployment: How to Get Started
3 Simple Steps for Filing a Claim
When you become unemployed through a job lay-off you are typically qualified to receive weekly unemployment benefits. But you must apply to receive those benefits, it’s not going to happen by magic.
3 basic steps you can take to file for unemployment:
- Locate information for contacting your state unemployment office
- Gather together the information you need to file a claim
- Call or apply online ASAP.
**Tip: Most of the time you will be expected to file your own unemployment claim. But in some instances, when your lay-off is short-term or temporary, your employer may file initial unemployment claims for you through their human resources office. You must find this out from your employer. Ask: “Am I required to file for unemployment myself or is that something you or HR does?”
1. Contacting Your State Unemployment Office
Every state has its own procedures and requirements for unemployment benefits. You can locate your state’s unemployment office online or find it listed in the government pages of your telephone book. Avoid websites that catch your attention with messages like: “fast service,” “benefits filing services,” “membership claims filing,” and more language that promises quicker turnaround on unemployment claims and “fast money.” Use the resources you find on your state’s unemployment or labor department website. Get further tips on locating and contacting your state unemployment office.
2. Information You’ll Need to File a Claim
Gather the information you will typically need to file for unemployment benefits. Again, each state office differs slightly, but if you have the following basic information you are off to a good start:
- Your social security number
- Drivers license or legal identification
- Your address and telephone number
- Mother’s maiden name
- Employment record for the last 2 years, including employers’ names, addresses and telephone numbers
- Most recent employer’s federal employer identification number (EIN or FEIN)—ask your employer for this or find it on your W-2 tax form.
- Income records for the last 2 years
- Bank routing number (for direct deposit)
This may be more than you need for some state claims, but if you have all of this on hand and organized in one place—file in a folder, in a notebook—then you are way ahead of most people. If you were in a branch of the military have any official “separation” documents on hand, as well.
3. Apply for Unemployment
Most states offer you an online application for unemployment benefits or the option to file a claim over the phone.
- Access online applications directly through your state government’s unemployment website.
- Find the state telephone claims line on the state website or in the government pages of your telephone book and file over the phone.
- File ASAP.