Are you quickly approaching the limit of your unemployment benefits? We’ve created a quick guide here to help walk you through your next steps. In this article, we’ll show you how to create a financial action plan, and then we’ll guide you through the latest extension to unemployment benefits. Finally, we’ll explain a few government-sponsored programs, some of which could help you make ends meet.
What Does It Mean to Exhaust Your Benefits?
Individual states manage and regulate their own unemployment benefits policies and requirements. On average, these benefits last for 26 weeks or about 6 months.
When you apply for unemployment benefits, caseworkers review your case and approve or disapprove benefits. If approved, a maximum amount is set for the value of benefits you can receive while you’re approved for benefits. Once your benefit payouts reach this maximum amount, you’ve exhausted your benefits.
What to Do If Your Benefits Are Exhausted
Once the unemployment office notifies you that your benefits are exhausted, you won’t receive any more payments after the designated date. This doesn’t mean you don’t have other options. Depending on your state regulations, you may be able to reapply for unemployment benefits.
If you receive a letter stating your benefits are ending or your renewal application for benefits has been denied, you have the right to file an appeal and try to overturn this decision. Instructions for how the unemployment benefits appeals process works in your state should come with your letter. Typically, you must submit a detailed letter explaining why you believe your benefits should be reinstated.
While you are waiting for the appeals process, consider applying the following steps. Think of them as a backup plan if the appeals process doesn’t go the way you want:
1. Create a Financial Action Plan
Before you do anything else, create an emergency financial action plan. You might not be able to overhaul your finances completely—but you can stem the flow of money to some degree. You might be able to shave a few dollars off your expenses every month, or temporarily stop making mortgage or loan payments. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
If you feel frustrated or helpless between jobs, create a daily schedule to motivate yourself—and stay as physically and mentally active as you can.
2. Apply for Government Assistance Programs
If your unemployment benefits run out, there are numerous other government assistance programs that may provide financial aid. Below is a look at several of these programs. In many cases, you can check your eligibility or even apply for these benefits online.
The Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, program is a federal nutrition program that provides healthy foods to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children under the age of 5. The program gives eligible participants coupons they can exchange at the grocery store for specific food items, such as milk, cheese, and cereal.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides low-income families with financial support to purchase food. To be eligible, you must meet specific income guidelines and resource limits. This support can help cover a portion of your grocery budget until you can secure a job.
If you don’t currently have health insurance, you may want to see if you qualify for Medicaid. This health insurance program helps income-eligible adults and children obtain health insurance. While Medicaid is a federal government program, each state sets its own eligibility guidelines. If you’re currently not working or working limited hours, you may qualify for Medicaid.
If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, you may still be able to obtain health insurance for your children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. In some states, pregnant women may also qualify for CHIP. There are no waiting periods or open enrollments with CHIP insurance. Instead, you can apply for this insurance at any time throughout the year.
Social Security Retirement
If you’re aged 62 or older, you may qualify for Social Security retirement payments. You should talk directly to a representative at your local Social Security office to find out how much you can earn a month on Social Security if you retire right now. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to start collecting Social Security, the higher your monthly payments may be.
Social Security Disability
If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working and is expected to last longer than 1 year, you may qualify for Social Security disability, or SSID, payments. The application and approval process can take 6 months or more, so it’s recommended to apply for these benefits as soon as possible if you believe you qualify.
If you or one of your dependent children has a medical condition that prevents or limits you from working but you’re low-income or don’t have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. If eligible, you can receive monthly payments and typically qualify for Medicaid automatically.
State and Community Benefits
Depending on where you live, there may also be a number of state and community programs that can provide extra support until you can find a job. For example, many local communities have food pantries and soup kitchens that may be able to provide you with supplemental food options. Some states also offer reduced or free internet and mobile phone services to low-income families. Your local public assistance office or county government offices should provide a list of services for you.
Grants, Scholarships and Loans
If you decide to use your time off to acquire new skills through a training or college program, you may be eligible for various grants, scholarships, and student loans. In some cases, the combination of these programs can cover your cost of living while you’re in school.
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
Losing a job can make it difficult to keep up with your rent payments and put you at a higher risk for eviction. To help low-income families maintain secure housing, many states have a Housing Choice Voucher Program, also referred to as Section 8. If you qualify, this program can cover a portion or all of your rent to ensure you don’t lose your housing. Many areas have a waiting list for this program, so it’s recommended to apply for these benefits as early as possible.
3. Look into Self-Employment Assistance Programs
If you’re self-employed, you might be eligible for PUA and PEUC. Other programs, including grants and loans administered by the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEA), are also available. Reach out to your nearest Secretary of State office to learn about state-centric programs for self-employed people and small business owners.
4. Consider Freelance or Part-Time Work
If you’re currently unemployed and finding it tough to get another job, you could consider part-time or freelance work—or you could start your own small business. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
You might find a permanent full-time job again soon, but why not use this time to study, or to try something completely new? To learn new skills at home, check out Coursera, and create a ZipRecruiter profile to keep looking for employment online.
5. Reach Out for Help
If you’ve gone through all the suggestions listed above and nothing feels doable, reach out for help. Resources like United Way 2-1-1 can help you find ways to pay for food, housing, medical, and financial expenses. Local charities, churches, and community organizations might also be able to help.
What Are Extended Benefits?
Extended benefits are extra benefits the government offers in emergency situations. For example, when the pandemic hit, many states offered extended benefits to deal with the high unemployment levels.
Will Unemployment Benefits Be Extended Again?
While pandemic-related extensions are now over, that doesn’t mean an end to unemployment benefits extensions. If unemployment rates are particularly high in a specific region of the country, the government may decide to offer extended benefits. If these extended benefits are in place, it allows you to receive benefits for a longer period.
Can I Get an Extension on Unemployment Benefits If I Have Exhausted My Benefits?
If your unemployment benefits have been exhausted, you may qualify for extended unemployment benefits if they’re available in your area. To apply for these benefits, you must complete the application. In many states, this application is online. If your area isn’t currently offering extended benefits, you can reapply for unemployment benefits to see if you qualify. If you think your benefits ended too soon, you can always appeal the decision.