To thousands of out-of-work Americans, living from paycheck to paycheck sounds like a luxury.
And for many jobless, even living off unemployment benefits would be a welcome blessing.
Typically, only about one-third of jobless receive unemployment insurance checks, but in recessionary times, the percentage pushes higher, to about one-half, notes Wayne Vroman, economist at the Urban Institute.
Whether the unfortunate jobless are fortunate enough to receive unemployment benefits depends on the rules in their state -- and whether they even pursue the checks.
No more unemployment lines?
Being jobless isn't pleasant, and neither is trudging down to the unemployment office to claim benefits.
Many states, however, now let you apply online or by phone, making it easier to file an unemployment insurance claim.
A 2005 study showed that half of people who don't apply for benefits didn't because they thought they were ineligible, says Vroman.
But if you're unsure if you'll qualify, it can't hurt to apply, notes Paula Brantner, executive director of Workplace Fairness.
If you quit, worked part time, were fired for misconduct or didn't earn enough during a defined period before your job ended, your state may deny benefits.
Qualifying rules vary somewhat from state to state, however.
For instance, "If you're working part time by choice, you probably don't qualify, but in some states (you qualify) if you've been part time because that is all the hours your employer could give you," says Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project.Moreover, if you simply quit, you can't collect, but some states make exceptions for workers forced to leave their jobs to care of ill family members, he adds.Recessionary rushDuring recessions, there are not only more jobless, but people who are more apt to qualify for benefits because they are part of mass layoffs.In many cases, those initially laid-off temporarily can qualify if the layoff subsequently becomes permanent. "A lot of people don't file because they think it's just a couple of weeks (layoff)," says Vroman. "But if the situation turns permanent, you can still file, although the length of time allowed (between making a claim and the initial layoff date) varies betweens states."Do it yourselfStates don't charge for jobless residents to apply for benefits.Still, services exist that charge consumers for filing on their behalf. "They can't get you the benefits any faster," says Brantner.Indeed, most states operate under performance guidelines that mandate that the jobless receive a response to their application and start to receive benefits within three weeks, adds Brantner. Next: " ... Government is looking for ways to stimulate the fiscal engine." >Bankrate.com is the Web's leading aggregator of information on financial products including mortgages, credit cards, new and used automobile loans, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, checking and ATM fees, home equity loans and online banking fees. Visit Bankrate.com to get the tools and information that can help you make the best financial decisions.