New York unemployment benefits: Things to know

Young woman at home filing for ny unemployment benefitsImage: Young woman at home filing for ny unemployment benefits

In a Nutshell

If you’re out of work in New York, here’s what to know about filing for New York unemployment benefits.
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If you’ve recently become unemployed and live in New York, you may have options to file for unemployment.

If you’re out of work, here’s what you need to know about claiming unemployment insurance benefits in New York.

How do unemployment benefits work in New York?

Unemployment insurance is a joint program between the federal and state governments intended to provide out-of-work Americans with financial support until they can find a new job. Like all other states, New York makes its own rules for administering its unemployment insurance benefits program but follows guidelines set by federal law.

The New York State Department of Labor oversees unemployment benefits in the state. The easiest way to file a new unemployment claim is through the agency’s online system, but you can also file by calling its claim center.

Typically, New York state law allows eligible residents who are unemployed through no fault of their own to receive weekly unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks during a one-year period. However, states may choose to revise their benefits in times of economic crisis, and the federal government may help fund extended state benefits during such times.

Employers pay for benefits in New York, not workers. But the department of labor determines whether you’re eligible to receive benefits.

How can I qualify for New York unemployment benefits?

To be eligible for unemployment benefits in New York, you must …

  • Be unemployed through no fault of your own
  • Meet requirements for prior earnings

To continue receiving benefits after you’re approved for them, you typically must meet these requirements.

  • Be ready, willing and able to work immediately while actively seeking work (and document your job search each week)
  • Claim weekly benefits and certify eligibility for each week of unemployment
  • Attend all required appointments at a local career center

How much might I get?

New York determines the amount of your weekly unemployment benefit by reviewing earnings during what’s known as a “base period.” New York’s basic base period covers your wages for the first four calendar quarters (out of the last five completed quarters) before the quarter in which you file for unemployment.

To qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, you must meet all of these earnings requirements for the base period.

  • Earned wages at jobs covered by unemployment insurance in at least two calendar quarters
  • Received payment of at least $2,600 in one calendar quarter (if you file a claim in 2020)
  • Received total wages that are at least 1.5 times the amount of wages earned in your highest quarter

Your weekly benefit rate will be 1/26 (or 1/25 if your high-quarter wages are less than $3,575) of the high-quarter wages you earned in your base period. For example, if your wages during the base period were $4,394, the state would divide that amount by 26 to calculate your weekly payment amount of $169.

Weekly unemployment benefits in New York range from $104 to $504 for claims effective Jan. 6, 2020, or later. Again, because states may change their benefits during times of crisis, it’s possible these maximums can change during recessions or other difficult economic situations. 

How can I apply?

The best way to file a new unemployment insurance claim in New York is through the state department of labor’s online portal. The day of the week to apply is based on the first letter of your last name, and you’ll need a ID to sign into the portal. If you don’t already have a account, you can create one through the department of labor’s online services page. But if you already applied for unemployment by phone, you’ll need to wait at least one business day before creating an online account.

You can also call the claim center at 1-888-209-8124 during the agency’s COVID-19 expanded hours of 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday Eastern time.

Whether you apply online or by phone, you’ll need to provide some basic information, which includes …

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license or motor vehicle ID card number
  • Mailing address with ZIP code
  • Alien registration card number if not a U.S. citizen
  • Names and addresses of all employers for the last 18 months
  • Your most recent employer’s employer registration number or federal employer identification number, or FEIN
  • Copies of forms SF8 and SF50 if you were a federal employee
  • Most recent Form DD 214 for separation if you were in the military
  • A check with your bank routing and checking account numbers if you want to receive payments by direct deposit

Take note that filing without all of this information could delay your first payment.

How will I receive my payments?

If your claim is approved, you’ll have to wait a week to receive your first payment. But you’ll still need to meet all eligibility requirements for that week. You’ll generally receive your first payment two to three weeks from the time you filed your claim, but it could take longer if the state needs additional information.

If you enrolled in direct deposit, your payment will generally be deposited into your account within three business days of the department of labor releasing the payment. If you didn’t sign up for direct deposit, the state will pay your weekly benefits through a “Key2Benefits” debit card, which is a debit Mastercard that you can use to make purchases or withdraw cash from an ATM. The state will mail the card to you about seven to 10 days after you’re approved for benefits. You can keep track of your balance by checking your account for free at all KeyBank and Allpoint ATMs, by calling KeyBank’s customer service or going to its website.

Do I have to pay taxes on my unemployment?

Generally, unemployment compensation is subject to federal, state and local taxes, so you’ll have to report your benefits on your tax returns. You can choose to have New York withhold taxes from your weekly payments.

When do my benefits end?

If you’re eligible to receive unemployment benefits in New York, you can typically get them for up to 26 weeks during a one-year period, though it’s possible benefits may be extended because of crisis economic conditions.

That said, you can lose your benefits if you stop meeting all of the eligibility requirements. To continue receiving benefits, you’ll need to certify your benefits by requesting payment through the state website or phone system every week. You’re basically confirming for the state that you were still unemployed during the past week.

You’ll also need to meet the state’s requirements for job-hunting and document your efforts if the department of labor asks for confirmation.

What if my claim is rejected?

If your claim is denied or discontinued, you’ll receive a “notice of determination” in the mail explaining why the department denied your claim. The letter will tell you how to apply for a hearing and how to requalify if your benefit was discontinued for failing to meet requirements.

Next steps

If you need to file for unemployment assistance in New York, you can do so online or by phone. If you’re approved for benefits, you’ll need to continue meeting state requirements such as actively seeking work while receiving weekly benefits. And to minimize the risk of facing a big tax bill next year, consider having the state withhold taxes from your weekly benefit payment.

About the author: Deb Hipp is a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. When she’s not writing about personal finance and news, she enjoys traveling to seas… Read more.