Unemployment insurance was founded by the Federal-State Unemployment Compensation (UC) Program whose goal was to provide temporary and partial wage replacement to involuntarily unemployed workers, and to help stabilize the economy during a period of recession.
Who is Covered?
Work-at-home-moms and other employees can qualify for unemployment benefits as long as their employer contributed to the federal and state unemployment program. If, however, a worker is designated as an "independent contractor," and a W4 form was not completed and submitted and taxes were not withheld, that worker is not covered under the federal and state Unemployment Compensation Program. One way to check this is to look at pay check stubs for evidence of taxes withheld. There should be a reference to unemployment insurance premiums, such as "UI" listed on the pay check stubs.
Contract workers who submit W9s instead of W4s to companies that they work for, will not have taxes taken out of their checks and are therefore not eligible for benefits, because the program is funded by taxes imposed on employers and their employees. This is usually made clear in an independent contractor agreement which is executed prior to starting to work with a company.
The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the program for unemployment benefits, but each state administers its own system individually. The unemployment benefits program is funded by a) The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), which imposes a tax to employers for each covered employee; and b) individual state taxes.
Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility
To qualify for unemployment benefits, an individual must usually have worked recently for a certain period of time and earned a certain level of wages, from a "covered employer." A "covered employer" is a business involved in any industry or activity affecting commerce who is liable for payment of unemployment insurance tax under federal and state UC mandates.
Under state and federal laws, employees either fired for misbehavior or who quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment compensation.
States have individually developed diverse methods for determining eligibility. There are 3 major factors used by states to determine unemployment eligibility: (1) total of recent employment and earnings; (2) proof of ability and willingness to seek employment; and (3) certain disqualifications related to a claimant's most recent job separation or job offer refusal.
The general average requirement is that workers have been employed for 2 quarters of the year and earned at least $1,734 for the minimum monthly benefit. However, wage requirement amounts vary from state to state.
Unemployment eligibility can be checked by contacting state unemployment departments. The name of the actual program can also vary in each state.
File for Unemployment Online
In most states, it is possible to file for unemployment online. The online filing procedure information can be found at every state's official government website.
Sometimes, employers will contest an unemployment claim, but the disqualification of benefits usually includes one of the following reasons.
Not being able or available for work.
Voluntary separation from work without good cause.
Misconduct discharge related to work.
Refusal of work without good cause.
Unemployment as a result of a labor dispute.
Once eligibility is determined, it is important to file for unemployment benefits as soon as a job is lost, in order to receive all entitled benefit payments as soon as possible.