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Who is Eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

Eligibility is linked to work history. The state will impose rules on the amount of wages that must have been earned during the base period, the year before the worker files for unemployment insurance benefits. It usually takes two to three weeks after a claim is filed for a worker to receive the first benefit check. Unemployment is defined as losing a job through no fault of your own. Jobless workers must file each week, or every two weeks, depending on the state, to continue to be eligible to receive benefits.

“Claimants who file for unemployment benefits may be directed to register for work with the State Employment Services, so it can assist you in finding employment," according to the Department of Labor explanation of the rules. "If you are not required to register you still may seek help in finding a job from the Employment Service,” the Department said.

In addition to the basic unemployment coverage, there is a variety of special programs under which people can collect benefits.

Workers whose jobs have been interrupted because of a disaster declared by the President are eligible for benefits for as long as 26 weeks after the disaster occurred. The event could be a flood, a tornado, or a catastrophe such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.

Another source of help is designed for workers whose jobs were affected by foreign imports. The special benefits are authorized under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program for people “who were laid off or had hours reduced because their employer was adversely affected by increased imports from other countries,” according to the Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration. Benefits are available after regular unemployment insurance has been exhausted. “These benefits include paid training for a new job, and financial help in making a job search in other areas where jobs are more plentiful,” the Employment & Training Administration said.