What is Unemployment Compensation and What Does It Mean for Me?
Unemployment Insurance provides temporary financial assistance to qualified individuals who meet the eligibility requirements of the District of Columbia. Each person who collects Unemployment Insurance benefits is legally responsible for making sure he or she follows the rules set by the District. The program is not a right to all who have lost their job.
Keep these top ten key facts in mind when you are filing for UI benefits to ensure accurate and quick payment of benefits.
If you have basic questions about applying for unemployment benefits, the information below may be able to help.
Q: WHAT IS UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION?
Unemployment compensation, also called unemployment insurance or UI, is a program that pays benefits to people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. These benefits are managed by the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) and funded by the taxes paid by DC employers.
Q: WHO IS ABLE TO APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION?
To receive unemployment benefits, you must:
- Have lost your job through no fault of your own
- Be able, available, and actively seeking work
- Have made enough wages in the last year to show how much you could receive
Please visit our Overview of UI Benefits webpage for more information.
Q: HOW MUCH WILL I RECEIVE?
How much benefit you receive every week is based on how much money you made. Individuals who receive benefits, or claimants, could receive a standard 26 weeks of benefits. The maximum weekly benefit amount you may receive is $444.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS?
Within a week after filing your first claim, you should receive a Notice of Monetary Determination in the mail. This notice will let you know:
- If you made enough wages to get unemployment benefits;
- What your weekly benefit amount will be;
- What your maximum benefit amount will be;
- The date your benefits will end;
- The base period of your claim (click here to learn more about base period); and
- Which wages were used to calculate your benefits.
If you have made enough wages to get unemployment benefits, and you were laid off from your job while working only in DC, it generally takes two weeks to process your claim. If you got fired or you quit, or your employer disagrees that you were laid off, it can take up to 21 days to process your claim. During this time, DOES will collect more information to make a decision on your claim.
Q: IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD DO WHILE I WAIT FOR MY CLAIM TO PROCESS?
There are three things that you should do while you wait for your claim to process:
- Keep an eye out for messages from DOES. Read and respond, as soon as you can, to letters you receive by mail or email from DOES, and always respond quickly to voice messages left by DOES.
- Certify. Beginning on the Sunday after you apply for benefits, you must certify that you are eligible for UI benefits every week. Certifying means that you answer basic questions every week to tell us that you’re still unemployed and able to receive benefits. This process can be completed online, by phone, or via regular mail using the mail-in claim forms that are sent to your home address weekly. For more information on how to correctly certify for weekly benefits, please click here: Instructions for Completing the Continued Claim Form
- Look for work. Federal law says that people claiming unemployment benefits must continue to look for work to continue to receive benefits.
Q: HOW HAVE UI POLICIES CHANGED BECAUSE OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
You can find information on benefit updates on our UI Policy Changes webpage.