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.
Apply for Unemployment Benefits
What help is available?
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.
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
Federal agencies offer many unemployment education and training programs. They are generally free or low cost to the unemployed.
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 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.
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.
Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance
If you can't work because you get 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.
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:
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 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. 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.
Longshoremen, Harbor Workers, Coal Miners, and Federal Employees
Federal laws protect longshoremen, harbor workers, coal miners, 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 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:
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), 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.
Do you need help?
Ask us any question about the U.S. government for free.
We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it.
Last Updated: February 26, 2019