Skip to main content

Unemployment Insurance Explained: Weekly Benefit Amounts and Eligibility

By June 25, 2024No Comments

The Unemployment Insurance system aims to act as a social safety net, providing temporary financial support to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own.

Benefits are disbursed to eligible claimants based on their employment and wage history, resulting in the assessment of a weekly benefit amount that determines each individual’s payout.

The specific amount and duration of unemployment benefits vary by state and are influenced by several factors. As employers finance the unemployment system, it is important to understand the how and why behind weekly benefit amounts.

Calculation of Benefits

In order for an individual to receive benefits, they must meet certain monetary requirements; otherwise, they may be found monetarily ineligible. Once found monetarily eligible, the state will determine the amount of benefits to which an individual is entitled.

The weekly benefit amount (WBA) is typically calculated based on the claimant’s earnings during their base period, a time period defined as the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. The method of calculation varies by state, but the most common approaches are:

Percentage of Earnings

Some states calculate the WBA as a percentage of the claimant’s historical average weekly earnings, typically allowing no more than 50% of the weekly wage to be collected in benefits.

High Quarter Method

Alternatively, some states calculate benefits as a fraction of the claimant’s high quarter wages. Most commonly, a 1/26 fraction is utilized, which creates a 50% wage replacement for an individual who worked all weeks of their high quarter.

Minimum and Maximum Benefit Amounts

Each state sets a minimum and maximum weekly benefit amount to ensure workers receive adequate financial support while maintaining the sustainability of their unemployment programs. These amounts vary widely by state, reflecting the state’s average wages and cost of living.

Dependent Allowances

Certain states provide additional allowances for dependents. Individuals with children or other dependents may receive a higher benefit amount to account for the increased financial needs of their household.

Availability of this additional allowance varies by state with further variation in the amount and maximum allowances provided.

Duration of Benefits

At the time of application, duration of benefits is also determined, providing the maximum time frame during which an individual can collect benefits.

While many states have a maximum duration of 26 weeks, there is a nationwide trend of states decreasing duration or scaling duration to unemployment rates. During periods of high unemployment, extended benefits may be available.

The duration of benefits—and the increase and decrease of availability—can impact the amount of benefits paid out to claimants and, subsequently, your bottom line.

Eligibility Requirements

In addition to monetary eligibility requirements, claimants must also meet additional eligibility criteria in order to collect benefits. These include:

Separation Reason

Individuals must be separated from work due to no fault of their own, such as a layoff. Or, in instances of voluntary resignation, individuals must have good cause and have exhausted all options to avoid leaving employment.

Able/Available for Work

While collecting benefits, claimants must remain able and available to work. They must complete a predefined number of weekly work searches and accept suitable job offers.

About Us

For more than 40 years, 501(c) Services has been a leader in offering solutions for unemployment costs, claims management, and HR support to nonprofit organizations. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy and are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.

Contact us today to see if your organization could benefit from our services.

Are you already working with us and need assistance with an HR or unemployment issue? Contact us here.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources. Some information was provided by our friend, Darby Gibson, Client Marketing & Insights Specialist, at Thomas & Company.

(Images by Atlas Company and PV Productions)

501c Services newsletter sign up - popup graphic envelope letter

Keep up with
the news

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for timely updates, news, and events.