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Unemployment Benefits explained

Unemployment benefits

No embarrassment, just sign up!

Unemployment Benefits

Hello from Forks, Washington. It’s February and this area is a rainforest. Usually, the weather in Forks this time of year is sideways rain and snow with rivers on the verge of flooding. In other words perfect winter steelhead fishing weather. Unfortunately for the anglers in town, it is 55 F and sunny and there hasn’t been any rain in a long time. Consequently, the rivers are so low the fish are not coming into the system – “yet”.

So, I figured would try to post on the bloggy-blog. As I mentioned in my last post, I am looking for a new job and trying to figure out next steps. I thought it would be good to share my first-hand experience as I go through the process. Like most folks who are laid off, I have applied for unemployment benefits. I had a recent experience with the state unemployment office and thought my experience may help readers if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Hopefully, you do not.

Why I am collecting unemployment benefits

Because I was “laid off” from my last job, (the company was sold and my position was eliminated due to redundancy) I am collecting unemployment.

First I will provide the Cliff Notes version of WHAT unemployment insurance is:

  • Unemployment Insurance is a joint state and federal program that provides temporary financial assistance to employees who have lost their job through no fault of their own.
  • If you were fired for stealing or quit your job, you would not be eligible for unemployment.
  • At a high level, benefits are based on a percentage of your earnings over a 52-week period. Each state sets a maximum amount.
  • Benefits are subject to taxes and must be reported on your income tax return.
  • Your employer paid to state and federal taxes to cover the unemployment benefits while you were employed, so really, if you were employed, you are entitled.

I live in the state of Washington so I went to this site to sign up and then report my job search activities.

Why I am sharing my experience with unemployment benefits

The reason for this post is because I see too many employees NOT sign up for unemployment benefits giving any number of the following reasons. I believe you should sign up. I did.

Top 7 reasons I hear from employees for not signing up for unemployment benefits:

  • Employee says! “I don’t know what Unemployment insurance is.”
  • Survey says! Read above
  • Employee says! “Signing up for Unemployment Insurance is a hassle.”
  • Survey Says! H-O-L-Y mackerel. You gotta be kidding me. Readers will be surprised how often I hear this. If you saw a 20.00 bill on the ground would you look at it like the dirty dishes in the sink we want to avoid and not do anything about it? If you can walk past a 20.00 bill, then you have First World problems and you probably didn’t need to work in the first place, much less care about getting laid off. Personally, I do not want to take the chance of a freak thing happening and running out of money. Yes, we think we can find a job, but what if we are not able to? For most people who are unemployed, this is a time of being conservative with finances, and there is nothing more conservative than collecting a check, even if it is smaller than what we are used to.
  • Employee says! “But HRNasty, I don’t want to pay taxes on the benefits.”
  • Survey Says! The politically correct HR pro would explain that everyone pays taxes. This is considered income and income is taxed. HRNasty would say: I didn’t want to pay taxes on my income when I was employed, but this is America and paying taxes is a high-class problem. The check may be smaller, but I am happy to pay ANY taxes and it is no different from paying taxes WHEN I was employed. Paying taxes is a high-class problem. I wish I were paying $1M dollars in taxes a year because it means I am making a lot more. Feelin’ me?
  • Employee Says! “I don’t use food stamps and I don’t take charity. I am not signing up for unemployment benefits.”
  • Survey Says! This isn’t charity. I don’t know any executives that have been laid off that didn’t make sure they were signing up for unemployment insurance if they qualified.
  • Employee Says! “But I gotta call in, log in and go down to the unemployment office.  Is it really worth my time?”
  • Survey says! Now that you are unemployed, are you doing anything else? The time at the Unemployment Office was scheduled for 90 minutes but only took about 45 after my personal tour of the resources. Filling out the online form each week literally takes about 4 minutes.  The state wants a log of the 3 job inquiries I am making a week and I am already keeping a log of the phone calls and interviews I am going to.

Yes, I am collecting unemployment and I am not embarrassed about it.  Shit happens and thankfully, I live in a country that provides benefits. The company I worked for paid the taxes and I would be a fool if I did not sign up. Unemployment is not charity. The economy happens and last I checked, the economy it isn’t anyone individuals fault. This is America, we have unemployment insurance and we should feel fortunate it is available.

Sign up ASAP

The day I was laid off, I signed up online through the Washington state unemployment website. Yes, everything was done online. I needed to wait about 7 days before I can start collecting and then another 7 days for my first check, but I think I receive a couple of hundred dollars a week. Even if I receive 50.00 a week, I am signing up.  This amount is based on the yearly salary I was making when employed. It may not be much, but it will add up. Until I am wiping with hundy’s I will be collecting unemployment whenever I qualify.

This doesn’t happen to everyone, but I was called into the Unemployment office for an orientation seminar on being unemployed. I didn’t know what to expect, but as a guy who has a little familiarity with job hunting and currently talking with a couple of companies, I did wonder what the session would be about. I ended up driving from Forks to Seattle, Washington (about 4 hours one way) for the session and frankly, I am glad I did. The folks working in the office ran the gamut. Some were VERY helpful and genuinely very nice. Others had attitudes that reflected the employee that had been working there for 25 years and just clocking in. The “Yes can I help you?” without looking up from their work was experienced. Very inspiring. 

I didn’t mention anything about my background or this blog. I just tried to be as gracious as I possibly could. Here is what I got out of the session that I didn’t know about, and some would consider me relatively knowledgeable in this area.

The agency is helpful

The lady behind the desk volunteered to give me a one on one tutorial on the Washington Unemployment web site and introduced to a number of resources designed to help job hunters and these were new sites to me. (I knowwww! Can you believe it?) There is a link on the Washington Unemployment site that tells you if the position in your industry is growing, shrinking or staying level as it relates to demand for that skill set. That hyperlink is here and I think it is a bit of a gem. It says that the skill set for Human Resource Managers is in demand and then goes on to provide salary information, growth long-term and short-term, and other useful tidbits. The info may be a bit dated, but it is a great start for those that are not familiar with the specifications of their skill set.

Yes, the video I watched was a bit dated. It was recommended that I look at the newspapers classified ads for job postings and showed an actor with an actual newspaper and yellow marker. But there is a wealth of other information available from resume writing to career building resources. And of course, there is the resource you are currently reading.

A smile goes a long way

My theory walking in was that a smile and relaxed attitude at these unemployment agencies can go a long way for the people working in these offices. They are working with frustrated, unemployed, laid-off folks who are probably not in the best of moods. In the same way being nice to the ticket agent at the airline counter can get you an upgrade to business class, a positive attitude and a smile can help at this office. On my way out-of-town I stopped by the unemployment office one more time to deliver a Starbucks gift certificate to the woman who graciously helped me out. I figured it was the very least I could do.

I also learned that showing up to these appointments on time is imperative. The state feels that since they are providing the unemployment benefits, they want to make sure you are taking the job search seriously. If you are even 1 minute late, you will not only be chastised but will be rescheduled. The thought is that if you are not able to show up to this on time, then you probably won’t show up to the interview on time.  Good to know.

If you were declined benefits, this is a good resource here which a reader sent it.  Thanks, JE. 

Hopefully, this may help any folks that are eligible for unemployment but not collecting.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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