When you file for unemployment, you can usually receive benefits for as long as you qualify up to your state's maximum number of weeks. Once you've exhausted your claim balance, then you normally can't receive benefits anymore. However, some programs can help you in certain situations such as during the current pandemic or general periods of high unemployment in your state. In any case, it helps to prepare ahead of your claim balance running out so that you're in a good place to get reemployed and know what other assistance options you have.
Typical Length of Unemployment Benefits
Each state sets the standard length of time during which you can receive unemployment benefits. The majority of states will allow you to get benefits for up to 26 weeks, but others set the limit to as little as 12 weeks or as high as 28 weeks. For example, you can get 12 weeks of benefits in Florida, 13 weeks in Missouri and 21 weeks in Idaho. However, Montana allows for a standard 28 weeks of unemployment benefits.
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Extensions Due to COVID-19
As part of federal legislation due to COVID-19, changes have occurred that can temporarily extend how long you receive unemployment benefits this year. This includes a couple of programs that can help relieve workers who have become unemployed due to the coronavirus or who've run out of benefits and/or don't qualify through the regular state programs.
First, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program took effect for the week ending on April 4 and will last through your pay period ending December 16. It allows you to get as much as 13 more weeks of benefits. And if you end up using up those extra weeks of benefits, then you might still qualify for up to another 13 weeks through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program if your unemployment was due to the pandemic. As with the PEUC program, the PUA expires in December 2020.
State Extended Benefits Program
Even in times when there's no pandemic, you might have an option to continue receiving benefits through the federal extended benefits program if your state has a high unemployment level. If your state qualifies, this can give you 13 more weeks of benefits. Further, your state may opt to provide another seven weeks of benefits to bring that up to 20 weeks. Your state should contact you to let you know if you'll receive extended benefits, but you can also call the state unemployment office to ask about it.
Preparing for End of Benefits
Since you'll no longer get unemployment benefits once you've exhausted all the extensions available, it helps to plan ahead so that you're ready to return to work. As a requirement for receiving benefits, states often have you sign up for reemployment assistance or apply to jobs, but this doesn't apply temporarily in several states due to COVID-19. In any case, it still helps to start planning your job search, sprucing up your resume and even considering training to prepare you to move forward in your career.
If you have trouble finding a full-time job, you might consider a non-traditional job like gig work or part-time work to start out. For example, you might apply with a temp agency and find a role that can lead to full-time work later, or you might consider driving for a service like Uber. You can also seek help through a local employment agency that can connect you with local employers and match your skills with suitable positions.
You should also learn about other options you have for financial assistance if you'll need them. You could apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for food, look for cash assistance through charities for your bills and look into housing voucher programs if needed. Medicaid can potentially help you get affordable health care for your family. Your county and state websites can inform you about the programs you might qualify for until you can resume full employment.