5 On Your Side

Here to Help: Filing for unemployment benefits

Posted January 12, 2009 5:15 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Times are tough and one thing facing many – some people for the first time in their lives – is being laid off from their jobs and filing with the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina to get unemployment benefits.

Ann Hargrove lost her temporary job with the U.S. Postal Service.

“I'm out again, looking for another job. I have a degree in psychology, but it doesn't do me much good,” Hargrove said.

With all the layoffs, more people are filing for unemployment for the first time.

“Everybody knows somebody right now who is unemployed, so I don't think there's a stigma with it at all,” said Larry Parker, a spokesman for the N.C. Employment Security Commission. “We're doing our best, as long as someone is eligible, to get them the money as quickly as possible and help them through this tough time.”

Parker says one thing to keep in mind before filing for unemployment benefits is that losing your job cannot be your fault.

He said filing for unemployment benefits is easy. You can meet with a job counselor or file on your own through an office terminal. You can also choose not come into the unemployment office and file either over the phone or online.

When filing for unemployment benefits, you should start by reading the Frequently Asked Questions section. It explains eligibility and how to make sure you get benefits. After that, you get step-by-step instructions for the process that takes about 30 minutes.

“It's going to ask you questions like 'are you willing to relocate?'” Parker said.

There are also questions about your education and employment history.

“A lot of this is for later on when we set you up for searching for jobs. We're going to go ahead and have this in the system for you. So that way, when a certain job matches some of these settings, it will pop up for us and we can get you that information,” Parker said.

You will need that information because you must actively look for a job to receive unemployment benefits. The average wait from filing for benefits to receiving your first check is about four weeks.

You can opt to get your weekly funds by direct deposit or debit card.

Once you are in the system, you can file a weekly certification to attest that you are looking for work. When collecting unemployment benefits, you also have to take a job for which you are qualified if it's offered to you.

Hargrove said she hopes to find work soon. As upsetting as the job search process is for her, she said she knows it is necessary.

“You know you have to get a job, and this is the place that helps you get a job. So this is where you come,” Hargrove said.