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Unemployment Insurance Benefits -
Frequently Asked Questions: Before You File A Claim

What is unemployment insurance?
Unemployment insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and who are ready, willing, able to work and have sufficient work and wages in covered employment. In New York State, the money for unemployment insurance benefits comes from taxes paid by employers. No deductions are ever made from a worker's paycheck for it. It is the Department of Labor that determines whether an unemployed worker qualifies for unemployment insurance.

Federal and New York State laws prohibit discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age or marital status. Your claim for unemployment insurance benefits will be evaluated and an eligibility determination will be made without regard to any of these factors.

What employment do I need in order to qualify for benefits?
To qualify for benefits you must have worked and been paid wages for employment in at least two calendar quarters in your base period, and; you must have been paid at least $1600 in wages in one of the calendar quarters in your base period, and; the total wages paid you in your base period must be one and a half times your high quarter wages. (For claims effective April 17, 2000 and later, we will use 22 times the maximum benefit rate as your high quarter earnings, if your earnings are higher than this amount, so that you may qualify under this requirement.)

If you meet the above requirements in the Basic base period, the Basic base period will be used to establish your claim. The Basic base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the calendar quarter in which your claim is effective.

If you do not meet the requirements in 1. above in the Basic base period, it will be determined if you qualify using the Alternate base period. If you qualify using the Alternate base period, that base period will be used to establish your claim. The Alternate base period is the last four completed calendar quarters immediately prior to the calendar quarter in which your claim is effective.

If you qualify under the Basic base period but you think using the Alternate base period would result in a higher benefit rate, you may apply within 10 days from the date of the initial monetary notice to have your rate recalculated using the alternate base period. If using the Alternate base period does not increase your rate, we will continue to use the Basic base period and your initial monetary determination will remain in effect. You will be sent a determination notifying you that the Alternate base period was not used because it would not increase your rate.

Before applying to use the Alternate base period, you should be aware that once wages are used to establish a claim, they cannot be used to establish a subsequent claim. Once you choose to use the wages in the most recent completed calendar quarter, you cannot use these wages again. This may affect your entitlement to a subsequent claim. If you do not qualify using the Basic or Alternate base period and you received Workers' Compensation payments or Volunteer Firefighters' benefits during the Basic base period, the Basic base period may be extended back up to 2 calendar quarters depending on the number of base period quarters in which you received these benefits.

Wage paid to you for employment that you lost because of misconduct or a criminal act cannot be used to establish a claim or in the calculation of your benefit rate.

If you are filing successive unemployment insurance claims, you must have new wages of at least five times your benefit rate in the benefit year to qualify for a new claim.

When should I apply for benefits/file a claim?
File your claim during your first week of total or partial unemployment - to delay may cost you benefits.

How do I apply for unemployment insurance?
You should apply for UI benefits through our automated TEL-CLAIM system by calling the Telephone Claim Center (TCC) at 1-888-209-8124 or online by using WEB-SERVICE.

For those with a language difficulty, translation services are available. Those with a speech or hearing impairment may request that a friend or relative assist in the telephone claim process.

Hearing impaired individuals who have Telephone Device for the Deaf (TTY/TDD) equipment may file a claim by calling a relay operator at 1-800-662-1220 and requesting the operator to call 1-888-783-1370. Service at this number will only be provided to callers using TDD equipment.

If I am a resident of New York State but work in another state, where do I apply for unemployment benefits?
You may apply for UI benefits by calling the TCC at 1-888-209-8124.

What do I need to have when I file?
Have the following information available when you file your claim:

How is my weekly benefit amount determined?
Your original benefit rate is calculated on your actual high quarter wages. Your rate is one twenty-sixth (1/26) of the high quarter wages paid to you in your base period, except if your claim began before January 3, 2000 or your high quarter wages are $3575 or less, then your weekly benefit rate is one twenty-fifth (1/25) of your high quarter wages. Wages are applied to the quarter in which they are paid. The current maximum rate is $504.

If your claim is effective April 17, 2000 or later, you have an additional option to have your benefit rate calculated using weeks worked and wages paid to you in your base period. Refer to your Claimant Information Book to see if you qualify for this option. You must finalize your choice of base period and establish a final quarterly rate before you can request your rate based on average weekly wage. If your rate is calculated using this option, the total weeks and wages will show on the bottom of the Monetary Determination mailed to you.

Your entitlement and benefit rate are initially established using the information that your employers have reported to the New York State Wage Reporting system. You will be sent an initial Monetary Determination based on the information in the Wage Reporting system. You will also be sent a Request for Reconsideration form with the Monetary Determination. If you disagree with the Monetary Determination, your should complete the Request for Reconsideration form and submit it with proof of your employment and wages to the address given on the form. Your initial Monetary Determination will be reviewed based on the proof you submit. If necessary, your base period employer(s) will be contacted to verify the wages paid to you in your base period. If your benefit rate changes, a revised Monetary Determination will be issued to you. If the review results in no change to your benefit rate and your rate is less than the maximum rate of $504, your Request for Reconsideration will be processed for a hearing.

It is important to keep pay stubs and other proof of wages paid to you in your base period so that you can provide an accurate estimate. Wages include the monetary value of tips, bonuses, meals and lodging, as well as commissions and vacation pay.

What is the maximum amount of benefits I can receive?
Although your claim lasts one year (your benefit year), during that time you can only receive 26 times your full weekly rate (or the same amount of money for weeks of partial unemployment).

Can I use military service to establish a claim?
Yes. To be eligible you must meet the conditions outlined below.
  1. You completed the first full term of enlistment (except where discharge or early release was for the convenience of the government under an early release program, OR medical disqualification, pregnancy, parenthood, or any service incurred injury or disability, or hardship, or personality disorder or inaptitude-but only if the service was continuous for 365 days or more.) As a reservist, you must have had at least 90 days of continuous active duty.
  2. You were discharged under honorable conditions, and if an officer, did not resign for the good of the service.

Your weekly benefit rate will be based on the earnings in the high quarter in your base period. Your weekly earnings in military service are based on a federal schedule that takes into account the base pay in your last grade plus allowances for food and clothing. Please have Copy 4 of your most recent separation Form DD214 (and any DD 215's you received) available when you file your claim.

What if I work for a school system?
Employees of educational institutions are not eligible for benefits based on such employment when a claim is filed between academic years or terms and during customary vacation or holiday recesses if they have a contract or reasonable assurance of employment in the period immediately following the vacation period or holiday recess.

If you are denied benefits or your benefits are reduced between academic years or terms and later were not offered an opportunity to perform services for the educational institution, and you continued to certify for benefits, you may be eligible for retroactive payments of benefits. This is providing you did not work in an instructional, research or principal administrative capacity.

If you have sufficient earnings with employers other than educational institutions, you may be entitled to establish a claim based on the other employment.

What if I worked in New York state but live in another state?
Persons living in another state who want to claim unemployment benefits from the State of New York must meet all the eligibility conditions.

They must file an Interstate claim by calling a toll-free number, 1-877-358-5306, to contact the Out-of-State Resident office. However, residents of some nearby states who regularly cross state lines in order to work in the State of New York are required to file their claims by calling 1-888-209-8124.

After you file your claim you will receive a packet of information from New York State giving you information and advice on your out-of-state claim.

If you are filing from another state and have any questions about your claim, write to:
P.O. BOX 1559
ALBANY, NY  12201-1559

What if I am going to move out of New York state?
If you are looking for work out of New York State or planning to move to another state, it is very important to notify the Telephone Claim Center 1-888-209-8124 or 1-877-358-5306. They can provide information on transferring your claim.

Does receiving Social Security affect my benefits?
There is no reduction of your unemployment benefits because you collect Social Security. You must be available for and looking for work with no restrictions when you receive Social Security, just as all other claimants.

Does receiving a pension affect my benefits?
If you have actually retired, and are not seeking employment, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. However, if you are retired and are actively seeking work, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits under the same conditions as all other unemployed workers.

Your weekly benefit rate may be reduced, however, if:

If the employer was the sole contributor to the pension, the reduction will be the weekly equivalent of your pension. If you made any contribution, the reduction will be one-half the weekly equivalent of your pension.

The Telephone Claim Center will make a determination of any reduction in your unemployment benefits amount.

Does pregnancy affect my eligibility?
Federal and state laws prohibit the denial of benefits to any claimant because of pregnancy. Pregnant claimants are eligible for benefits according to the same rules that apply to all other claimants. If you are ready, willing and able to work, and are actively searching for work, the fact of your pregnancy has no bearing on your collecting benefits.

There is no requirement that you disclose your pregnancy unless it affects your ability to perform work in your usual occupations. If your health prevents you from working in your normal occupation, you must inform the office where you file for benefits.

The Telephone Claim Center may not ask you, on its own, if you are pregnant. If you are asked, you may refuse to answer.

However, if your employer tells the Telephone Claim Center that you quit or took a leave of absence, or were fired, because of pregnancy, the office may verify that information with you. If you left your last job voluntarily, even though you were physically able to continue working, you may be ineligible for benefits.

You will be required to be available for work, and to look for work, just like everyone else.

A federal court decree enjoins the Unemployment Insurance Division from engaging in discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.