Federal Unemployment Assistance – Frequently Asked Questions

September 19, 2008

Being “laid off” is one of the most dreaded phrases in the English language.  No one wants to hear it, but as we all know, life happens. 

Losing Your Job

Thankfully, we live in a country with a relatively low unemployment rate, about 5 percent, but the low rate is little consolation to the people who are part of that 5%.  There are plenty of people who get laid off from their job every day, and their lives are devastated, because they lost their job unexpectedly.  These people may have had good careers and been good workers but because of unforeseen circumstances regarding any number of factors, their employer may have decided to cut a portion of its workforce. 

So, if you suddenly find yourself without a job, or you’re worried that you might be laid off in the future due to the current economic conditions, here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about federal unemployment assistance.

Who pays for it and who runs it?

The FUA program is run by your state government, but funded by the federal government.

How do I find my state unemployment office?

There’s a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor called Career One Stop that offers “career resources and workforce information to job seekers, students, businesses, and workforce professionals.”  They have a section on the site called America’s Service Locator which can help you find One-Stop Career Centers and provides contact information for “a range of local work-related services, including unemployment benefits, career development, and educational opportunities.”

Who is eligible for FUA?

Anyone who lost their job that had nothing to do with their job performance or actions as an employee.  You must be “laid off”, not fired.  Being fired means you weren’t doing your job or you did something against company policy that warranted your termination.  Basically, YOUR actions caused the termination.  If you were fired, you aren’t eligible for FUA.  If you were terminated based on circumstances that had nothing to do with you, then you’re eligible.

How much will I receive?

This varies state by state.  Your past gross monthly income will be taken into consideration, and you’ll receive a portion of that amount.  You’ll also be awarded a certain amount of credits that determine how many weeks you’ll receive the unemployment benefit.

How Am I Paid?

You will be paid on a weekly basis, unless otherwise specified by your state’s laws.

How long does it take to receive my first check?

It generally takes two to three weeks.

Do I need to look for work during the time that I receive benefits?

Yes!  The whole point of the program is to give you financial aid while you’re looking for other work.  Most states will require you to register with the state’s job bank for potential employers to contact you for work.

The Bottom Line

Filing for unemployment benefits is a logistical nightmare.  You’ll fill out tons of paperwork, and it’s the government, so they aren’t prompt, and they don’t care about customer service.  However, if you’re the sole provider for your family and end up without a job this program can offer a much needed supply of cash.

Don’t quit your job thinking you can expect to receive unemployment assistance, it doesn’t work that way.  The amount you’ll be paid definitely won’t replace your salary so you’ll still want an emergency fund to make up the difference, plus the emergency fund will come in handy while you’re waiting for the first check to arrive. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, start one today.  You can open an account for only a dollar with online banks like FNBO Direct.  If you start putting away a little each month you’ll be glad you did when crisis strikes, click here to start your emergency fund today.

It’s a good idea to keep your resume up to date and form a work portfolio so you’re ready in the event you lose your job. Not only will you want to start the job search right away, federal unemployment guidelines require that you do so.

Keep in mind, sometimes people lose their job due to injury or disability.  You can help prepare for an unfortunate event like that by buying disability insurance.  Another big issue for people that get fired is finding health insurance coverage, make sure you consider what you’ll do about health insurance between jobs.

These answers to frequently asked questions about federal unemployment assistance are part of the Career Finances Guide.


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Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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9 Responses to Federal Unemployment Assistance – Frequently Asked Questions

  • victoria gabriel

    Are they going to pass the federal extension? Please someone help us!!!!!! I have one check left on my first extension and that is it. Hopefully they pass this next bill because I live alone and have know other income. There are not enough jobs for all the people that are out of work.

  • Natalie S

    I was wondering if anybody had any answers for this….? I am collecting unemployment and I found a job that I want to start training for but I’m scared. What if for some reason it doesn’t work out and then I am at square one with bills and no way to pay them. Does anyone know if there is a time frame that unemployment gives you when you start a job and just incase it doesn’t work out before they totally cut off your unemployment? And how does in work when you get a new job… do you have to contact unemployment and let them know? Please help?!? Thank you. 🙂


    I was laid off on June 30, 2009. The company was willing to approve unemployment benefits. However, the state of Texas decided that I was not eligible because I had not worked for one quarter of the year. Explain this to me. The Federal govt says I am eligible because I was laid off but the state says no. Can anyone clear this up

  • Kevin Sorenson

    I have been unemployed for almost 12 months. My current claim has already been extended once (runs out in 2 weeks) and I haven’t received any notification to date for eligibility for State (Nevada) Extended Benefits.

    Are they going to extended Federal funded unemployment and if so when would start.

    Thank you

  • mikey mike

    dear jay,

  • Jay Ashfield

    I wasgetting unemployment comp. until I was honest to the Government,I was signing up online beforethat due to cut backs@ work. anyhow the one question was are you able & available for work no I wasn’t able because of corpol tunnel however I was available for work, So i said I was not able there is no sepret question, are you available for work which is STUPID because no you can’t work your normal Job but if you had you could go in for light duty, I just think that the Government could specify themselves and ask the questions. Instead of assumeing. What was that old saying? Any how , My Wife is on dissability & has been since I worked @ Sealy 14+ yrs. ago . Now here is the Lodgic I worked that many years for one Employer, and with the way the economy is today, because of that question, these People think I quit or just don’t want to work witchEmployer told them that wasn’t the case. yet they held off paying me since 11-25-08. Thank God the money My Wife gets pays our rent, However our light bill is almost $1’000.00 plus all the other bill’s keep adding up you try to explain this to them, and it don’t matter.I think something should be done that you could explain what your trying to explain to them instead of Someone Assumeing. Is there something anyone could for me Christmas is comming up, no money. Unemployment’s doing there thing. work is still working on workers comp & nothing yet, Thank God for P.W.D they could not help with money asst. but they did give us $156.00 in food stamps, since we had no food since Thanksgiving. like I said no money comming in,bills keep adding up our elect. is on the verge of being cut off on 12-29-08. no money for gas to go anywhere, Famialy did all they could do our people don’t have anymore.So Please anyone from Government HELP.

  • Jitendra Singh

    I have been unemployed for almost 2 years now. I had a small construction business. Since the housing economy took a dump, I have been out of work.I apply for more than 3 jobs per week. I applied for EDD and I get $80.00 every 2 weeks. I have 2 daughters, spouse, mom and dad living together. How am I supposed to survive and feed my family? If there is any way I could get Federal Assistance to get a stable job or some extra financial help, please help me. I am highly qualified in the construction feild. Please help me ………Any body !

  • Hank Cardillo

    Question: If I am currently a Sole Proprietor paying Federal Unemployment and I
    change to an LLC on January 1, 2009, are there any forms, which I must complete.

    Please advise. Thank you, Mr. Cardillo

  • marci

    In our state is is REQUIRED that you keep a job log of places, names, phone #’s where you looked for work. They supply the form. Make sure you actually fill in this form and keep it available….at some point you will MOST LIKELY be asked to provide your listing!!! If you can’t provide it, they have the right to make you repay some of your benefits as it is a requirement that you look for work AND keep the record.

    I found our local office very easy to work with and most polite!