When you are laid off or fired from a job, your first concern is likely financial, as you try to figure out your next move. Unemployment provides a small security blanket for these situations, provided you've been working for a certain period of time and meet other requirements depending on your state. Sometimes it may take longer than you think to work out your severance package and other elements of your separation, so you don't get around to filing for unemployment benefits until months later. There are some things to consider if you don't file for unemployment benefits right away.
Optimal Time Line
When you are fired or let go from a job, it is always best to file for unemployment right away. It takes time to get approved and if you are not approved for some reason, you need time to file an appeal. It is best to get this process in place before you run out of savings or severance money and find that you really need your unemployment funds.
You can still file for unemployment weeks or sometimes months down the line after losing your job. However, you may have more hoops through which to jump. Your state's unemployment office might ask you to provide additional paperwork detailing income you've used to sustain yourself from the date you were let go until your date of filing. Moreover, you may not be able to claim those weeks that have passed since you stopped working: Your benefits will start when you file and are often not retroactive.
To file for unemployment, you must submit a claim through your state's unemployment compensation office. This process is generally done online via the agency's website, though some states do offer a brick-and-mortar office through which you can file. The application form will ask for an accounting of your income, personal identifying information and the dates of employment. It may also ask for contact information for your employer and for you to confirm that you are currently seeking employment.
Check with your state when you know you need to file for unemployment compensation, since each has its own set of rules associated with the process. For example, in Pennsylvania, it is acceptable to wait a few months to file for unemployment, but in other states this may not be the case. What you don't want is to wait to file, only to find that you've passed the time period in which you can get unemployment benefits, leaving you with no incoming funds.