What to Do When Your Unemployment Benefits Run Out

How to Get Help When You're Out of Unemployment

Parents and children all working from home
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What can you do if your unemployment benefits run out or you're about to lose them, and you still don't have a job? Try not to panic, there are resources available to help.

Unemployment benefits are intended as a temporary measure to help you financially when you are between jobs. Generally, unemployment benefits last 26 weeks, but that might vary depending on your state.

Expanded unemployment benefits are available for laid-off workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. Eligible workers will receive supplemental payments and extra weeks of unemployment compensation.

In times of high unemployment, the federal government may extend unemployment benefits. In New York, for example, unemployed workers are currently eligible for up to 52 or 59 weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, depending on when they filed their claim, eligibility for benefits, and the state unemployment rate.

However, there are limits to how many weeks are available. That means that there's a chance that your benefits might run out before you secure new employment.

Check on Extended Benefits

First, check with your state unemployment office to ensure that you are receiving all the benefits you qualify for. During a recession, the federal government may provide funds allowing the states to expand unemployment benefits.

CARES Act Extended Benefits

For example, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows states to extend unemployment by 13 weeks for workers who’ve exhausted standard unemployment benefits.

Federal Extended Benefits

Due to the high unemployment rate, an additional 13 - 20 weeks of federal Extended Benefits (EB) are currently available in most states due to the high unemployment rate.

In most cases, these extended benefits will be paid automatically and you shouldn't need to refile to continue claiming benefits, but check with your state department of labor for details on your eligibility and how the process works.

The Department of Labor's Economy Recovery portal has information on filing for unemployment in your state, plus resources for housing, food, finances, health care, and more.

Create an Action Plan

If you are close to losing your unemployment benefits, you need to create an action plan to fall back on. The best time to trim expenses and find resources is while you still qualify for unemployment. Make a plan now, and you can save yourself additional stress later.

The longer you’re unemployed, the more challenging it can be. But there are resources available to help long-term unemployed workers.

Tighten Your Budget Before Unemployment Runs Out

As soon as you lose your job, it's wise to create a new, barebones budget, which should cut out all non-essential spending. Cancel unnecessary services such as cable or a gym membership, scale back on your grocery bill, and cut entertainment expenses like eating out.

You'll still need to make your savings, emergency fund, and other money last as long as possible, in case your benefits end before you find another job and you need to dip into your savings or emergency fund.

Check out some of the best ways to supplement or replace your compensation when you’re unemployed and short on money to pay the bills, and how the income will impact your unemployment benefits.

Contact Your Creditors

If you are unable to make your monthly payments, you should contact your creditors. Your student loan can be put on deferral if you are unemployed, and you should do this as soon as you lose your job. 

While your creditors may be able to report you to collections when you fail to pay, you may find additional help or assistance while you are unemployed if you contact them. If you are proactive, you may be able to save your credit while you deal with unemployment.

Get Help Looking for a Job

It is easy to become discouraged in a difficult job market. One way to shorten your search time is to broaden your horizons. Considering expanding the field that you are looking in, as well as the geographic location. You may be able to find a great job in a different state or city.

If you're a college graduate, check with your career services office. Many school provide career counseling and job search assistance to alumni.

If you are getting to the interview stage, but you are not receiving any offers, you need to get help with your interviewing techniques. Look for help with this through your local unemployment office. They can still offer you help with looking for a job even if you do not qualify for weekly benefits. It is important to continue to be proactive until you find a job.

Take on Part-Time, Temporary, or Gig Work

Additionally, you may consider picking up part-time or temporary work to help you out while you are continuing to search for a full-time job. You may begin freelancing in your field and discover that you can make a lot of money doing that. Just be sure to plan for taxes come next year, as you'll be responsible for paying taxes on your earnings.

You may also find that you can pick up odd jobs to help supplement your income. Once your unemployment benefits have run out, you may have to take on a part-time job indefinitely in order to meet your financial obligations.

Investigate Social Services Programs

There are emergency programs in place to help you cover the costs of food and your rent through each county. If your unemployment runs out, you will likely qualify for food stamps. You may also qualify for child care assistance while you are looking for a job as well as help with rent or utilities.

You do not know what you will qualify for until you apply, and it is worth the time to contact your local office to find out what help you can get while looking for a job. Additionally, you may want to look into local food pantries in your community that can help you.

Where to Find Free Financial Assistance and Support

  • Secure a free email account: Job seekers can create a professional email separate from their personal email to use just for job searching.
  • Check with your internet and cell service provider: You may be able to hold off on all or some of your payments while you're unemployed.
  • Check with your church and local community organizations for support: If you are a member of a church, ask if any help is available. Community organizations often have resources to help the unemployed with food baskets, donations, job help, and babysitting assistance.
  • Seek help from your network: If you can get support from family or friends, don't hesitate to ask.
  • Consider loans for unemployed workers: You may be able to borrow money even though you are not employed. Find information on the types of loans available for unemployed workers, how to qualify for a loan, and options for borrowing money when you are out of work.
  • Obtain free job search help: Identify and find free, or inexpensive, job search and career resources in your geographic areas.
  • Check with your local Career OneStop Center: Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Career OneStop centers may have information on local resources such as community organizations that may be able to offer support with utility bills, food costs, and other necessary expenses. Career OneStop might also have information on temporary positions, in addition to permanent or long-term job listings, possible assistance with upgrading skills, and obtaining training to increase a job seeker's marketability.
  • Review job search tips for unemployed job seekers: It might be difficult to be upbeat, confident, and energetic during job interviews when you're in a desperate financial situation, but it's important for an unemployed job seeker to remain positive.

Check With Nonprofit Agencies

Need further assistance? Here’s a list of local, state, and federal resources that can connect you with non-profit agencies near you.

  • 2-1-1 Call Center: Call to find local assistance with training, employment, food pantries, affordable housing, and support groups.
  • Directory of Homeless Shelters: Find a listing of homeless shelters throughout the United States from the National Coalition for the Homeless.
  • Low-Cost Phone Service: Reduced-cost phone service is available to eligible low-income families through the Lifeline program. Qualifying applicants can receive voice and data packages for less than $15 per month.
  • Help With Pets: If you are having difficulty caring for your pets, there is help available. Check with your local animal shelter and veterinarian to see if they can assist or refer you to sources for pet food and care.
  • Home Affordable Modification Program (AMP): This program, along with others, allows qualifying unemployed homeowners to reduce mortgage payments so that they can focus on finding a job without the pressure of foreclosure.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Each state has a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, formerly called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). TANF can help with food stamps, financial assistance, training, and job searching.
  • Food Stamps: The federal food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helps low-income families and individuals buy food.
  • Medicaid:Medicaid provides medical benefits to low-income people who have no medical insurance or inadequate medical insurance.
  • WIC: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food and nutritional support for low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or postpartum, and for children under age 5. Check with your local health department, clinic, or other authorized agency for WIC information.