How Long Can You Draw Unemployment Benefits?

Once you've begun receiving unemployment benefits, your next question might be how long the payments will last. The duration of your unemployment payments depends on several factors. The first is whether you continue to be eligible. The others depend on the regulations of the state you live in and whether you're eligible for a federal extension.

Continued Eligibility

The easiest way to put an end to your unemployment benefits is to stop being eligible for them. If you find new employment, you can't continue to collect unemployment. The same applies if you aren't looking for new employment. Most states require that you keep a log of your employment search, and to present it any time you're asked. You must also certify for your benefits on a biweekly basis, which means calling into a hotline, or going onto a website to answer questions about your eligibility. If you fail to certify, you won't receive your benefit payments.

Base Period

The wages you made during your base period often play an important role in how long you can receive your benefits, as well. If you take the five complete calendar quarters before you filed for unemployment, the first four are your base period. How much money you made during this period will determine what's the most you can receive in benefits. When that maximum benefit amount (MBA) is exhausted, you can't collect benefits anymore.

State Maximums

Each state also has its own guidelines for the maximum amount of time you can collect unemployment. This is to prevent those who made a significant amount of money during their base period from collecting unemployment indefinitely. Guidelines can vary, depending on the state in question, but 26 weeks is the average maximum time you can collect unemployment.

Federal Extensions

During some periods of economic instability, Congress has enacted federally-funded extensions for state unemployment benefits. When you've exhausted your state unemployment benefits, your federal unemployment benefits kick in. Although you must meet the current eligibility requirements, you can continue to receive unemployment benefits for several weeks after your state benefits expire. How you apply for federal extensions vary depending on the state. Some states will automatically enroll you if you meet the requirements, but others wait until you've filled out a new application.