Clarifying Claimant Unemployment Monetary Eligibility

July 29, 2015

Clarifying Claimant Unemployment Monetary Eligibility

Aside from being out of work, individuals seeking to collect unemployment benefits must demonstrate that they have met a minimum standard in earned wages just prior to their separation.

Every state agency has its own eligibility regulations and requirements that determine when claimants meet mandatory qualifications to receive unemployment benefits. The fundamental purpose of all state unemployment agencies is to appropriately compensate claimants who satisfy the work and wage credit qualifications, comply with work search and availability requirements, and are out of work through no fault of their own.

Normally, monetary claim eligibility is directly related to a claimant’s prior wages (during the base period). The benefit year maximum award represents approximately 50% in wage replacement. The tangible amount of the benefit compensation award is partially determined by total wages earned (wage credits) and duration of employment during the recent past, or the “base year.”

The most common “base period” is a consecutive 12 months comprising the first four of the last five previously completed calendar quarters preceding the quarter in which a claim is filed. Frequently, states also utilize an “alternative base period” consisting of the four most recent quarters’ wages or another valid time period of covered wages.


Unemployed workers that apply for benefits will establish a “benefit year” that continues throughout the ensuing 52 weeks. The total amount of benefits and the duration of time a claimant collects during an established benefit year is calculated by applying the wage credits (total gross pay accrued by the claimant during the base period) to a unique formula created by each state’s law.

All states have established a maximum and minimum amount of allowable benefits during the immediate fifty-two weeks after the date the unemployment claim is filed. The Maximum Weekly Benefit Amount (MWBA) is the most any claimant can collect during a week of the benefit year. The minimum standard or Minimum Weekly Benefit Amount (mWBA) represents the lowest benefit award based on wage requirements for an unemployed worker to receive any benefits.

The current highest maximum benefit award available is found in the state of Massachusetts at $1,047 and the lowest minimum award can be found in Hawaii at $5. For state-by-state unemployment cost information, including benefit award amount, click here.

Watch for the next article on “Qualifying Reasons for Claimant Eligibility”



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