Get Answers to Your Unemployment Claims Questions

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 03: Employment related booklets are seen on a shelf at a New York State Department of Labor Employment Services office March 3, 2011 in Brooklyn, New York City.
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It can be really difficult to get through to the unemployment office. One unemployed worker told me, "I had to call more than 20 times to get through to my state unemployment office! I just sat there in front of the TV and called over and over."

Do you have a problem getting through to unemployment or do you have an issue with your unemployment claim? Are you having difficulty navigating the unemployment system to get answers? Here are frequently asked questions and answers on unemployment claim issues, from career and employment experts, that will help you collect unemployment benefits and handle glitches in the process.

Why Didn't I Get My Unemployment Check?

When I worked for a non-profit workforce development organization some of our clients would share their checks had unexpectedly stopped. We learned they may have said no to a question on "have you job searched this week" because they were working with us or in training and not, in their minds, out applying to or talking with employers. That would cause the Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim to be flagged and their check stopped. Working with a career counselor or organization (or job-related activity) would typically have met the job-search requirement, but they did not have an explanation (in advance) of how to answer this question or what would happen if they answered no.

Shahrzad Arasteh, M.A., CPRW, Career Consulting Services

Why Did My Unemployment Benefits Stop?

There are several reasons that your unemployment benefits could have stopped. The simplest explanation is that you have used all the benefits that are available to you. Not all states have the same benefits levels, so unemployment compensation differs based on your location and your individual claim. For example, Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) provides additional weeks of benefits, up to a maximum number of weeks. In periods of high unemployment, Extended Benefits (EB) provides even more weeks.

However, EB doesn't guarantee a certain number of weeks. It is based on the state unemployment rate. Finally, there could be an issue with your claim. Check with your state unemployment office for clarification if you are not sure why your benefits have ended.

I Can't Contact the Unemployment Office. What Should I Do?

The best single word of advice we can give an applicant for unemployment insurance is "tenacity." Sometimes it takes visits to the local office. Sometimes it takes interminable waits on the phone. Sometimes it takes working your way up the chain of command. It almost always takes tenacity. We recently represented a client in an appeal here in California of a denial of her claim for unemployment benefits. She ended up having to go down to the unemployment office handling her claim and asking to meet with a representative.

From that point forward things seemed to get better. Our client was even given an "inside" phone number so she could better access the system and more easily reach a "live person" rather than being stuck on "perma-hold" with bad music. Ultimately, once we prevailed at the appeal, her benefits were paid back to the date of her original application.
Scott I. Barer, Employment Attorney, Woodland Hills, California

It can be hard to reach people at the UI office, since their staffing has apparently been reduced or reallocated in recent years, but if job seekers are unable to reach anyone at all, they might try contacting someone at their state's department of labor (UI is usually housed there) for assistance and can also check with their One-Stop (which now also houses most or all of the Job Service/Department of Labor's UI/Employment Office employees) and ask if they will directly contact someone in the unemployment office on their behalf.

Shahrzad Arasteh, M.A., CPRW, Career Consulting Services

How Can I Get Help With My Claim and Answers to My Questions?

If they are reaching someone, but can't find an answer to their question, they may wish to ask to speak with a supervisor or someone who reviews cases (or leave a number where the supervisor can look into their file and call them back). If none of these work, they might get in touch with someone at the dept. of labor for their state and explain the question or issue they are experiencing and ask for help with how to resolve it.
Shahrzad Arasteh, M.A., CPRW, Career Consulting Services