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Unemployment Help

Learn how to apply for unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, welfare or temporary assistance, and other programs and services that can help if you lose your job.

COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits

The federal government allowed states to change their laws to provide COVID-19 unemployment benefits for people whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many states are ending their COVID-related unemployment benefits. Contact your state’s unemployment insurance program for the most up-to-date information.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 temporarily authorized:

  • An extension for people already receiving unemployment benefits

  • Automatic, additional payments of $300 per week to everyone qualified for unemployment benefits

  • Extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for self-employed or gig workers

How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

There are a variety of benefit and aid programs to help you if you lose your job. CareerOneStop.org is a good place to start. It can help with unemployment insurance benefits, job training, and finding a job.

Unemployment Insurance

Am I eligible?

Unemployment insurance programs pay you money if you lose your job through no fault of your own. You must meet your state's eligibility requirements.

How do I apply?

Each state runs its own program. Select your state from this map to find out how to apply. You may be able to file online, by phone, or in person. 

Is there anything else I need to know?

  • Some states provide extended benefits when there's high unemployment. Extended unemployment insurance benefits last for 13 weeks. You can apply for extended benefits only once you've run out of regular benefits. Check with your state; not everyone qualifies.

  • You must report unemployment benefits as income on your tax return.

Other Types of Benefits and Programs for the Unemployed

Educational Help

Federal agencies offer many unemployment education and training programs. They are generally free or low cost to the unemployed.

Self-Employment Help

Self-employment assistance programs help unemployed workers start their own small businesses. Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, and Oregon offer this program.

Continuation of Health Coverage: COBRA

Learn how you can continue your health care coverage through COBRA.

What is COBRA?

COBRA is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA lets workers and their families remain in the employee's group health insurance plan for a limited time after a change in eligibility.

Eligibility

There are three basic requirements that must be met for you to elect COBRA continuation coverage:

  • Your group health plan must be covered by COBRA

  • A qualifying event must occur. This could be voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, or divorce.

  • You must be a qualified beneficiary for that event

If you are entitled to COBRA continuation coverage, you must be given at least 60 days to decide whether to elect it.

How to Get COBRA

Group health plans must give covered employees and their families a notice explaining their COBRA rights. Plans must have rules for how COBRA coverage is offered, how beneficiaries may choose to get it and when they can stop coverage. For more COBRA information, see COBRA Premium Subsidy. The page links to information about COBRA including:

Get More Information or File a Complaint

For questions or complaints about your COBRA coverage, contact your plan administrator or the Employee Benefits Security Administration. Note: In some cases, you can change from COBRA coverage to Marketplace health insurance coverage.

Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance

If you can't work because you are sick or injured, disability insurance will pay part of your income. You may be able to get insurance through your employer. You can also buy your own policy.

Types of Disability Policies

There are two types of disability policies.

  • Short-term policies may pay for up to two years. Most last for a few months to a year.

  • Long-term policies may pay benefits for a few years or until the disability ends.

Employers who offer coverage may provide short-term coverage, long-term coverage, or both.

If you plan to buy your own policy, shop around and ask:

  • When do benefits begin?

  • How long do benefits last?

  • How much money will the policy pay?

Federal Disability Programs

Two Social Security Administration programs pay benefits to people with disabilities. Learn about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI).

Workers' Compensation for Illness or Injury on the Job

Workers' compensation laws protect employees who get hurt on the job or sick from it. The laws establish workers’ comp, a form of insurance that employers pay for. These laws vary from state to state and for federal employees.

Benefits Provided by Workers' Compensation

In general, workers’ comp provides:

  • Coverage for workers’ medical expenses

  • Compensation for lost wages while a worker is out recovering 

  • Benefits for dependents of workers who died from job-related hazards

Private Sector and State or Local Government Employees

If you get hurt working for a private company or state or local government, seek help through your state. Your state workers' compensation program can help you file a claim. If your claim is denied, you can appeal.

Longshore and Harbor Workers, Coal Miners, Nuclear Weapons Workers, and Federal Employees

Federal laws protect longshore and harbor workers, coal miners, nuclear weapons workers employed by the Department of Energy (DOE) or a DOE contractor, and federal employees. Contact the workers' compensation program that applies to you for help filing a claim.

Wrongful Discharge/Termination of Employment

If you feel that you have been wrongfully fired from a job or let go from an employment situation, you may wish to learn more about your state's wrongful discharge laws.

Wrongful Discharge/Termination Laws

  • Wrongful termination or wrongful discharge laws vary from state to state.
  • Some states are "employment-at-will" states, which means that if there is no employment contract (or collective bargaining agreement), an employer can let an employee go for any reason, or no reason, with or without notice, as long as the discharge does not violate a law.

If you feel you have been wrongfully discharged or terminated from employment, you may: 

Employer Guidance for Discharge/Termination

If you are an employer seeking information about legal termination of employees, you may wish to contact both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and your State Labor Office to ensure you do not violate any federal or state labor laws. You may wish to consult with a licensed attorney.

Welfare or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federally funded, state-run benefits program. Also known as welfare, TANF helps families achieve independence after experiencing temporary difficulties.

Learn About TANF

Recipients may qualify for help with:

  • Food

  • Housing

  • Home energy

  • Child care

  • Job training

Each state runs its TANF program differently and has a different name.

Some tribal groups operate their own TANF programs.

Find Out If You're Eligible for TANF  

  • Each state or tribal territory has its own rules for who is eligible for financial help, services, or other benefits.

  • You must be a resident of the state where you are applying.

Apply for TANF

Contact your nearest TANF office to sign-up for benefits.

Report TANF Fraud

If you suspect possible welfare fraud, contact:

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Last Updated: June 14, 2021

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