Out of Work: Though it sounds obvious, you need to be completely out of work to be eligible to claim unemployment benefits. This means that if your workplace offers unpaid vacation time, you can’t claim unemployment benefits while you’re away. You also need to have not quit, as most of the time, quitting a job (especially without good cause) is not grounds enough for claiming unemployment. Another example is trying to collect unemployment benefits if you’re on maternity leave, as that may disqualify you because you’re either still collecting income or have a job waiting for you after a certain period of time.
Able and Available: To claim unemployment, you have to be able to work a job and be available for a standard work week of 40 hours. Something like a medical condition preventing you from being able to work might mean you’d have to look at disability benefits instead, while having a previous commitment that keeps you from being available for a full 40 (or so) hours each week could also make you ineligible for unemployment.
Self-Employed: Make sure you’re eligible by having worked for someone else and not yourself. If you own your own business, you’re incorporated, and you lose income, you may be eligible for unemployment. This is because incorporated businesses pay into a fund that makes self-employed people and freelancers eligible to receive unemployment. However, you should check with your state unemployment agency for the most up-to-date information that applies specifically to you, as self-employed citizens may be eligible for the Self-Employment Assistance program instead of unemployment benefits.
Getting Fired: There’s no yes-or-no answer when it comes to receiving unemployment if you were fired, as it depends on the reason why. If you were fired because of cutbacks, poor performance, unsuitability, or another closely-tied reason, you may be eligible for unemployment. However, if you were fired with cause (misconduct), such as lying, cheating, stealing, falsifying records, failing or refusing to take a drug or alcohol test, or willfully violating the company’s rules or policies, you may be excluded from claiming unemployment benefits. Check with your state agency to make sure.
Students: Most states disqualify students from collecting unemployment while they’re in school, as the presumption is school hours often interfere or overlap with standard work hours. For example, Alabama makes no exceptions for students, disallowing them completely from collecting unemployment benefits. But if a student in a state like Delaware or Nebraska can show that being in school won’t interfere with their being able and available to work, then they may be eligible for unemployment.