Unemployment insurance is a program administered by the states under federal guidelines. It is funded by a tax on employers (employees contribute in three states -- Alaska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). Those unemployed for reasons beyond their control can receive partial weekly benefits for a limited time based upon their length of employment and earned wages. (References 1 and 3)
Unemployment insurance eligibility is determined by individual states within federal guidelines. Generally, applicants must be ill-suited for the job, laid off, victim of a business closure or otherwise unemployed for reasons beyond their control. Those fired "for cause," such as violating a law or company policy, are not eligible.
Determining Your Benefit Amount
Unemployment insurance replaces between 50 percent and 75 percent of a person's gross wages. It is based upon quarterly income in the "base year," usually four of five calendar quarters prior to becoming unemployed. Some states also allow an "alternative base year," which includes the current quarter or most recent quarter.
Rental Income's Effect on Benefits
You are allowed to work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits and seeking full-time permanent work. A percentage of your weekly earnings is deducted from your benefit amount. So are other forms of earned income, such as severance pay, holiday pay, vacation pay or a pension. However, rental income from property you own is not considered "earned income" (unless it is your primary occupation) and thus is not deducted from your weekly benefit amount.
Remaining eligible for unemployment insurance requires making your mandated number of employer contacts or job search activities, such as resume writing workshops, or some combination for every week you claim benefits. It also requires promptly responding to any requests for additional information and attending any scheduled job search review or other interview at the unemployment office.
Registering for Work and Other Services
Claiming unemployment insurance benefits often requires registering for work with your state's Labor, Employment Security or similar department to assist you in finding another job. Those not required to register still may use the newspapers, telephones, copy machines, fax machines, computers, job contacts and referrals, labor market information and re-employment services provided at the local "unemployment office." Unemployment office personnel also provide vocational testing and counseling and refer you to training programs.
- U.S. Department of Labor: State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- U.S. Department of Labor: Unemployment Insurance Topics
- Ann Arbor News: Cuts to jobless benefits reveal just what may be in store with Gov. Rick Snyder's "reinvention"
- National Employment Law Project: What Is An Alternative Base Period?
- Unemployment Insurance Minnesota: Other Income That Reduces or Delays Payment
- World Health Organization. "Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)." Accessed April 7, 2020.
- Congress.gov. "H.R. 748—CARES Act." Accessed April 7, 2020.
- United States Department of Labor. "UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PROGRAM LETTER NO. 15-20." Accessed July 1, 2020.
- Whitehouse. "Memorandum on Authorizing the Other Needs Assistance Program for Major Disaster Declarations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019." Accessed Sep. 8, 2020.
Brian Gawley has been a daily and weekly newspaper reporter since 1989, working for the "Whitman County Gazette," "Columbia Basin Herald," "Grand Coulee Star," "Peninsula Daily News" and "Sequim Gazette." Gawley is a Washington State University Honors Program graduate with a bachelor's degree in communications and a national research paper award winner.