Working fewer hours? Unemployment Insurance may help
It’s that time of year when things just seem to slow to a crawl. The holiday rush is over, the new year is settled in and the winter weather threatens to keep us in hibernation. In business, construction screeches to a halt and sales tank enough to almost guarantee a good parking spot every time you head to Walmart. At work, it’s a drastic change from weeks of overtime to fill holiday orders to having enough orders to warrant a full, 40-hour week.
The reduction of hours couldn’t come at a worse time, with winter heating bills due soon and raising grocery and gas prices stretching your pennies. What can you do besides hunker down, rework your budget and hope things pick up again before it’s too late?
There is an option that people seldom consider when they have a job, and that is Unemployment Insurance. You see, as long as you are working less than 40 hours a week, Arkansas doesn’t consider you fully employed and you may be able to draw Unemployment Insurance benefits.
How Unemployment Insurance Works
An Unemployment Insurance claim lasts for what is called a Benefit Year (BYR), which is equal to 4 business quarters that equal a calendar year. To determine the Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA), wages that were earned in the first 4 or the last 5 quarters becomes the Base Period for the claim. Of those 4 quarters, the one with the highest earnings is used to calculate what is received each week. The Maximum Benefit Amount determines how many weeks are available, and that money will remain available until the Benefit Year expires in 4 quarters.
Let’s say you opened a new Unemployment Insurance claim this week. We are now in the first quarter of 2011, so the Base Period would be the last quarter of 2009 up to the end of the 3rd quarter of 2010, or October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010. Of those 4 quarters, let’s say your highest was $7800. The average quarter is 13 weeks, so you take that amount and divide it by 26, which is $300 (Arkansas Unemployment Insurance is roughly one-half of your gross income earned in the highest quarter in the base period). That is your Weekly Benefit Amount.
Are You Eligible?
If you are working less than 40 hours a week, yes, you may be eligible to draw some or all of your Weekly Benefit Amount in Unemployment Insurance. You can earn up to 40 percent of your WBA and receive all of your WBA. Anything above that 40 percent will be matched dollar for dollar – the more you earn, the less you can get of your WBA – until you “max out” at 140 percent, at which point you would not be eligible to draw Unemployment that week.
So, if your WBA is $300, you could earn up to $120 and receive your full $300. If you earn $420, then you made too much to draw any Unemployment that week. For example, if you work 20 hours at $10 per hour, then your benefit amount for the week would be $220. That could really help you ease your winter budget!
Head to your local Arkansas Department of Workforce Services office to get started. Applying is easy, and an interviewer will explain the details of your individual Unemployment Insurance claim.
White County resident, freelance writer, photographer and blogger. Email her, visit her at A Bumpy Path and Out in the Back Yard for more neurotic enlightenment and visual stimulation.