While no one wants to face the prospect of a lost job, the possibility of the protection unemployment definitionof unemployment insurance can lessen the load. The initial blow can be overwhelming as you face questions such as: Where will I find work? Will anyone want to hire me? Or, how will I pay my bills? Spending time without your regular paycheck can seem daunting, but if you qualify for unemployment insurance, you may have some time to recover and plan for the future.

Before we delve into the details, know you’re not alone. According to some recent statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over a hundred thousand workers are laid off each month. Interestingly, even though they likely qualify for unemployment insurance, many don’t utilize the help offered.

What makes me qualify for unemployment insurance?

The US Department of Labor outlines what makes a separated employee eligible (or not) to receive unemployment benefits. When you boil it down, qualifying for unemployment insurance comes down to a few main points.

  1. You were on the books.

    Day workers, or people who were paid under the table or as a subcontractor are likely not eligible for unemployment insurance. This is simply because of the fact that their employers did not pay into unemployment insurance through their state.

  1. You were let go and it wasn’t your fault.

    In this case, you were laid off from your job because of organizational downsizing or restructuring and not because of any fault of your own. The letting go was something the company needed to do and was not a result of anything you did, or did not do.

    Meaning, if your employer let you go because of poor performance or you quit because you were fed up, you may not qualify. One specific term that means you may not qualify is the phrase “gross misconduct” which includes workplace behaviors such as stealing, regular lateness or absenteeism, or actions that could put you or other employees in danger.

  1. Depending on your particular state, you meet the requirements to receive unemployment.

    Each state has different rules regarding amount of time worked or the amount of money earned in order to receive unemployment. While the rules can seem complicated and confusing, if you’ve been separated from a long-term, steady job, it’s likely you’ll see some light at the end of the tunnel. You can quickly learn more about your state’s benefits by going to: careeronestop.org

  1. You are actively seeking a new job.

    This is a point they certainly care about when granting unemployment. If you’re looking for benefits, it’s likely you’ll be asked to provide proof that your seeking employment, regardless of your state. For instance, some states will not grant unemployment insurance benefits to people who choose to go back to school full time, or do not find adequate employment. However, some states do make room for the reality that some people need to attend specific training in order to make themselves desirable to leaders in high demand fields, such as medical roles or engineering.

I got let go, so what do I do now? Where do I start?

The moment you’re let go, you’re trying to figure out your next steps. Again, the process and options vary from state to state. One of the first things you need to do, after taking a deep breath, is to find out the specific laws in your state. There may be waiting periods in terms of when you can apply and when you can expect to receive your first unemployment check. Also, many states have maximum benefits, so even if you were making a really awesome salary, there’s likely a cap. However, don’t wait to find out. Apply as soon as you can, and ask questions. The process can take quite a while, so the sooner you get the ball rolling the better.

Depending on your particular state,job search you can apply in person, online, or over the phone. Before you reach out, be sure you have your ducks in a row. Have the dates of your employment, the name and address of your employer, and your history on hand. It’s important to remember, that even if the initial answer is an emphatic “no,” you’ll have the right and opportunity to appeal.

Once you do receive your benefits, it’s important to be mindful about keeping them. Many states require that people receiving unemployment benefits meet certain requirements. These requirements may include attending regular training programs, providing documentation that you are regularly seeking steady employment, and meeting in-person with a representative from the career services or unemployment office. While these action items may seem like a hassle or unimportant, these tasks are often the key to keeping your unemployment.