Unemployment Benefits and Other Help for the Unemployed

Discover some of the programs and resources that can help if you lose your job.

Apply for Unemployment Benefits

What help is available?

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

Unemployment Insurance

Am I eligible?

Unemployment insurance programs pay money to workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. You must meet certain eligibility requirements as determined by your state.

How do I apply?

Each state operates its own unemployment insurance program. Select your state from this map to find out how to apply. Many states require you to file for unemployment benefits online, and some provide toll-free numbers or other ways to get help filing.

Is there anything else I need to know?

  • Extended Unemployment Insurance - Some states provide 13 weeks of extended unemployment insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment. Not everyone who qualified for regular benefits qualifies for extended benefits. When a state begins an extended benefit period, it notifies those who have received all of their regular benefits that they may be eligible for extended benefits.

  • Unemployment insurance benefits are taxable - You must report any unemployment benefits you receive as part of your gross income on your taxes. Find more information about taxes on unemployment compensation and forms that you may need.

Other Types of Benefits and Programs for the Unemployed

Educational Assistance

If you are unemployed and receive unemployment benefits, learn about education and training opportunities and help with education costs.

Self-Employment Assistance

Self-employment assistance offers unemployed workers the opportunity to create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses. This is a voluntary program offered by  Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, and Oregon.

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Continuation of Health Coverage: COBRA

Learn About COBRA

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families the right to choose to continue group health coverage provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time.

Eligibility

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

  • Your group health plan must be covered by COBRA
  • A qualifying event must occur (for example, 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 elect COBRA continuation coverage, you must be given an election period of at least 60 days to choose whether or not to elect continuation coverage.

How to Get COBRA

Under COBRA, group health plans must provide covered employees and their families with a notice explaining their COBRA rights. Plans must also have rules for how COBRA continuation coverage is offered, how qualified beneficiaries may elect continuation coverage, and when it can be terminated.

For more COBRA information, see An Employee's Guide to Health Benefits under COBRA.

Get More Information or File a Complaint

If you have questions or complaints about your COBRA coverage, contact your plan administrator or the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

Note: In some cases, you can change from COBRA coverage to Marketplace health insurance coverage.

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Disability Insurance

Disability insurance protects individuals and their families from financial hardship when illness or injury prevents them from earning a living. Many employers offer some form of disability coverage to employees, or you can buy an individual disability insurance policy. 

Types of Disability Policies

There are two types of disability policies:

  • Short-term disability policies have a maximum benefit of two years.
  • Long-term disability policies have benefits that can last the rest of your life.

Employers may offer short-term disability coverage, long-term disability coverage, or integrate both of these as part of a competitive employee benefits package. When purchasing individual disability insurance coverage, you should ask: 

  • How is disability defined?
  • When do benefits begin?
  • How long do benefits last?
  • What dollar amount is promised?

Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income Programs

Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and they serve as the largest of several federal programs that offer assistance to people with disabilities.

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Workers' Compensation

Workers' compensation laws:

  • ensure that employees who are injured or disabled on the job receive fixed payments.
  • provide benefits for dependents of workers who died due to work-related accidents or illnesses.
  • protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by removing the co-workers' liability in most accidents.

Private Sector and State/Local Government Employees

Individuals injured on the job while employed by private companies or state and local government agencies should contact their state workers' compensation program for eligibility, assistance, and filing procedures for workers' compensation benefits.

Federal Employees, Longshoremen, Harbor Workers, and Coal Miners

If you are a federal employee, longshoreman, harbor worker, or coal miner, contact the appropriate Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) that applies to you. OWCP representatives can help you with claim procedures.

Workers' Compensation Appeals

The appeals process for workers' compensation varies from state to state. If you received a denial of benefits and you wish to file an appeal, contact your state workers' compensation office for information on how to file.

You may also wish to contact a licensed attorney.

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Wrongful Discharge/Termination of Employment

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) which provides otherwise, 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: 

  • Contact your State Labor Office for more information on wrongful termination laws in your state.
  • Seek legal counsel if your employer terminated you for any reason not covered under state or federal law.

You may also be eligible for unemployment compensation.

Employers

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.

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Welfare or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as welfare, is designed to help families recover from temporary difficulties and move forward.

What help is available?

Recipients may qualify for help with food, housing, home energy, child care, job training, and more.

Each state TANF program is operated differently, and has a different name.

Some tribal groups operate their own TANF programs.

Am I eligible?  

  • Each state or tribal territory decides the specific eligibility criteria for financial assistance or other benefits and services.
  • You must be a resident of the state where you are applying.

How do I apply?

  • To sign-up for temporary benefits, you can apply at your local or county social services agency. Call your state TANF office for your local contact information.

How do I report TANF benefit fraud?

If you suspect possible welfare fraud, contact your local TANF office or contact the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General’s Fraud Hotline.

What else do I need to know?

If you receive TANF, you may be eligible to receive other government benefits.

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Last Updated: November 28, 2017