How to File for Unemployment After Being Let Go from Your Job

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Feeling panicked after losing your job is an understatement. The stress caused by this situation makes it difficult to know what to do next. If this happens to you, you can file for unemployment in three easy steps. Just remember the three C’s: Collect, Complete, and Check.

Step 1: Collect

In order to file for unemployment, you will need some documentation for your identity and situation. Focus on gathering these needed documents.   Find a copy of your driver’s license, social security card, and one other form of identity. This may be something like a utility bill in your name for your home address or maybe even your picture I.D. card from your former place of employment.

Next, get a copy of your most recent check stub or your most recent W-2, and any other documentation related to the job termination. If you have a recent resume or list of past employers, you may find having that available helpful as well.

Gathering these documents first will help you quickly move through the application process.

Step 2: Complete

The next step is to take those documents and a copy of each either to a state unemployment insurance office or better yet, to the nearest computer. Most states have offices online, so you may only need to sign into the Internet from home to file your claim.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides a user-friendly list of workforce sites where you can file for unemployment. Simply type in your zip code or click on your state to find the closest location or unemployment application site. Beneath each state, you’ll see a link that says, “Apply for Unemployment Benefits in [State].” Then you should see a link that states: “File a Claim.” This is where you begin your application.

Once the claim link opens, the application is fairly quick. You will be asked some questions to help document your situation and what type of assistance you may be able to obtain. The documents you gathered in the first step will help you complete this form efficiently. Be aware that it may take up to two weeks for benefits to begin. Most states also use a debit card, placing a certain amount on it for your use each week.

Step 3: Check

The final step is to check what you need to do to maintain unemployment compensation. For example, the DOL expects those receiving benefits to look for a job, so you will want to establish a means of recordkeeping that shows you are meeting these requirements. Also, see what other benefits may be available to you (e.g., free job training or money for tuition).

Filing for unemployment is a quick process that can help alleviate the anxiety over losing a job. You’ll be fine. Just remember the three steps: Collect, Complete, and Check.