Some people tend to confuse welfare and unemployment benefits. But these two are pretty different. It would help to learn what welfare and unemployment benefits are, whether you qualify for either and how you could claim both types of benefits if you are going through difficult times.
What Are Unemployment Benefits?
What’s another name for unemployment benefits? It’s unemployment insurance (UI). Generally, unemployment benefits refer to a social insurance scheme that pays out money to qualified people that become unemployed due to no fault of their own. So, if you are fired for doing something wrong or you quit, you cannot access these benefits.
That money is meant to replace some of your lost earnings as you try to get your bearings and find new work. And it comes from your previous employers’ taxes, employee taxes and state taxes that people have paid into the system. Most states offer benefits for up to 26 weeks. However, under special circumstances, you may receive extended benefits for an additional 13 or 20 weeks if you have no other benefits and your state is experiencing a severe economic downturn.
To qualify for these benefits, you must have participated in consistent work before claiming the benefits. In addition, you must meet your state’s eligibility criteria and report the benefits as income during tax time. However, the first $10,200 of your benefits is tax-free if you have an income of less than $150,000. And the benefits are not based on financial need.
What Is Welfare?
On the other hand, welfare benefits refer to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that is funded at the federal level while operating at the state level. It’s meant to enable low-income families with kids to acquire independence after going through financial difficulties. Therefore, it is based on financial need. And in each state, the program has a different name.
To access the benefits, you must reside in the state where you make the application. However, qualified people can receive help with food, job training, housing, childcare and home energy across the board.
Welfare and Unemployment: Eligibility Criteria
To collect welfare and unemployment together, you first need to determine if you are eligible for each program in your state.
TANF Eligibility Criteria
For TANF, you must belong to a family with minor children in the home for starters. However, you could be childless and still qualify if the household consists of a pregnant woman in her last trimester.
You must also be a U.S. citizen or legal or qualified alien. Also, you must reside in the state in which you are applying for welfare. But the resources and income limits that determine financial need vary by state. Such resources refer to assets like vehicle equity over a specified amount, savings accounts, stocks, etc. For example, in Montana, you qualify only if your countable resources are $3,000 or less.
It is also worth noting that if you have an adult who has received TANF benefits for at least 60 months, you do not qualify for more federal funding unless there is extreme hardship. In the latter case, the state may provide those benefits.
Unemployment Benefits Eligibility Criteria
Both welfare and unemployment benefits are similar in the sense that states determine most of the eligibility criteria you should meet. However, general guidelines exist.
As stated above, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own. But before doing so, you must have worked for the required base period, which is usually four calendar quarters before you claim your benefits. In addition, you must have been legally authorized to work during that time.
It is also worth noting that your eligibility will depend on whether you met the income threshold during the base period. But what you receive as benefits will depend on your earnings and location. The average amount gets about $378 per week but those with many dependents tend to get more.
The unemployment insurance program also requires you to be actively looking for a job and be available for work to continue receiving the associated benefits.
Collecting Welfare and Unemployment Together
Below is the procedure for getting both welfare and unemployment:
- To collect welfare and unemployment together, contact your local TANF office or website. And do the same for the unemployment insurance. You can also contact them by phone and ask whether you are eligible and what to do. If you qualify, you can proceed.
- Start by calculating what kind of benefits you will receive in unemployment. These will enable you to determine if they will fit within your state’s countable resources and income limits for TANF benefits. Usually, TANF calculations will include them as unearned income. So, the more unemployment payments you receive, the less your TANF benefits will be.
- Put in your applications for both unemployment and welfare based on the instructions. And ensure you carry or provide all the relevant documentation. These may include your driver’s license, Social Security card, your previous employer’s contact information, previous pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, etc.
- Wait for a response.
If your welfare and unemployment applications are approved in both cases, you will begin receiving your benefits. But because one program depends on financial need, while the other does not, what you receive in the end may not be as much as you expect. So, bear that in mind when making an application.
- Brookings: How does unemployment insurance work? And how is it changing during the coronavirus pandemic?
- CBPP: Introduction to Unemployment Insurance
- CareerOnestop: Learn more about unemployment benefits and COVID-19 provisions.
- USA.Gov: Government Benefits
- HHS: About TANF
- MT.gov: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- CBPP: Policy Basics: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- CNBC: How much unemployment will I get? That depends on your state
- HHS: Help for Families
- DOL: Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak
- Unemployment benefits must be reported on your government tax return.
I hold a BS in Computer Science and have been a freelance writer since 2011. When I am not writing, I enjoy reading, watching cooking and lifestyle shows, and fantasizing about world travels.