Workers file for unemployment insurance when they experience legal "separation" from their jobs. A separation occurs when an employer lays off or fires a worker, a company goes out of business, or when a worker quits. The nature of the separation determines whether or not the worker qualifies for unemployment benefits. Non-separation factors can also play a role, both in the initial approval and as the beneficiary draws UI payments.
A non-separation issue concerns your eligibility to receive unemployment benefits, outside any separation issues related to the loss of your job. For example, the state may require that you be a legal resident and at least 18 years of age to receive unemployment benefits. Also, actively looking for work is a non-separation condition to draw benefits in most states. If you can't show that you are seeking a job by documenting your job search with dates, potential employers and outcomes, a non-separation issue arises -- and you may lose your unemployment benefits.
Able and Available
"Able and available to work" is a phrase applicants often see on their UI paperwork. This non-separation policy involves your availability for work, as well as your ability to function in a work environment. Many states make "able and available to work" a condition for receiving UI benefits. For example, if you are on family business and out of town, your benefits may stop. If you move to another state, the same can happen. In addition, if you suffer an injury that prevents you from working at a job for which you're otherwise qualified, the state may halt unemployment benefits, or at least require you to apply for disability benefits.
Another important non-separation policy involves income you receive while on unemployment. The UI office will ask you to disclose any income you receive, either earned or unearned. This can include wages for a temporary job, casual labor, worker's compensation benefits, Social Security or SNAP benefits. If your income from these sources exceeds a certain maximum, which varies by state, your UI benefits will either scale back or cease.
UI agencies also require eligibility reviews as a non-separation condition of benefits. From time to time, the beneficiary must report for an interview, which determines if he's still meeting the program requirements. Some states have more stringent review requirements than others. A Department of Labor study of eight states, which was released in 2003, found that those states with the most stringent review processes experienced a shorter duration of UI benefits for their applicants.
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