Ideally, before you left you received a briefing from someone in the human resources department at your former employer about how to apply for unemployment benefits. In fact, Bruce McClary, spokesman for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, headquartered in Richmond, Va., says the best time to bone up on the process is while you still have a job.
Generally you are eligible for a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment benefits in most states, but the economic stimulus bill signed into law in February 2009 extends the benefit period to an additional 33 weeks through the end of 2009. (Earlier legislation had provided for the same benefit extension but only until March 2009.) The new law also provides for an extra $25 a week in benefits and exempts the first $2,400 from income tax.
It usually takes two to three weeks after filing a claim to receive your first check, but the recent accelerated pace of layoffs has made it hard for many state unemployment offices to keep up -- so be prepared for some delay. The stimulus bill tries to address this issue by providing funds to help with application processing.