Unemployment benefits: Applying late can cost you

Lose your job. Seek unemployment benefits. That’s how most of us understand the drill.

The reality is if you’re still employed but seeing your hours cut significantly, you need to apply now for unemployment benefits before you lose your job.

That lesson came to us from Karin Patrick from Roseville. She’s one of our Public Insight Network sources. After hearing an MPR News story on unemployment, Patrick wrote to tell us:

Today’s story about jobless benefits didn’t mention that people should apply when their hours are greatly reduced (or they become unemployed) through no fault of their own.

Because of the way benefits are calculated, if a person applies after losing her job, which may occur many months after her hours were reduced, the weekly benefit can be far lower than if she had applied right when hours were reduced.

Patrick pointed us to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Website FAQs. Question number one is, “When should I apply for unemployment benefits”

Answer: You should apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you are unemployed or your hours are greatly reduced. (If you work 32 or more hours in a week you are not considered to be unemployed for that week).

A state labor department spokeswoman confirmed it, saying that while the process of calculating individual benefits is complicated, people should apply as soon as possible if hours are cut. She didn’t get into specific details.

Patrick, though, related the recent experience of her daughter. She wrote:

My daughter has really been hurt by the lack of info on eligibility when hours have been reduced. Her hours were reduced last October or so, and was told her job would be eliminated the end of May (this month).

Benefits are calculated on income from the earliest four of the previous five calendar quarters at the point of filing for unemployment.

If she files the end of May, she’ll have one calendar quarter of part-time work in the calculation. If she had known to file last October, her benefit would have been based solely on full-time work.

It’s a circumstance I didn’t know about. If anyone’s been in similar straits or just has a story to tell about unemployment benefits or being unemployed, please post below or share a story here.

Also check out the map below for responses folks have sent us recently on employment and job issues.

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