Is it Legal to Collect Unemployment From Two States?

It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has hit many people hard — not just medically, with hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of cases, but also financially. As a result, many Americans have been forced to collect unemployment benefits during this time in order to try to stay afloat. What if you worked in multiple states? Can you collect unemployment from each one?

Simply put, it is not legal to collect unemployment from two states. In fact, it is fraudulent to collect unemployment benefits from multiple states. Moreover, it is simply wrong. Money that you receive from a state’s unemployment fund (that you are not supposed to be receiving) could be going to help another person who is out of work and unable to find a job. If the unemployment investigation authorities learn that you are collecting from two states, you can face harsh penalties. Additionally, unemployment fraud affects the companies as they end up having to pay higher rates as a result.

Combining Wages

That being said, depending on where you worked you may be able to combine wages you earned from two states that you worked in to be able to earn a higher weekly unemployment  benefit amount. Unfortunately, this is determined by each state’s unemployment office, which has specific procedures that must be followed in order to take advantage of this option. For this reason, you should speak with a representative from the unemployment office in the state in which you live to learn whether or not you can combine wages for your claim. 

Typically, states will permit an unemployed worker to combine wages from another state if he or she worked in that state within the last 18 months. Those wages will be combined with the wages earned in the state in which the claimant currently lives. The most common result when this combination occurs is a higher weekly benefit check. This will need to be determined by a representative or counselor to see what the best result is for your particular situation.

Collecting Unemployment

The first step in collecting unemployment is contacting the local office of the state in which you live. Let the representative know that you worked in another state and would like to combine your wages from that state, as well as your current state, into your unemployment claim. This may be possible during your initial unemployment claim processing or you may need to file a claim with wages from just one state and then later contact the unemployment office to have your wages combined. 

Keep in mind that even if you move to another state while unemployed, you will still be eligible to file for your weekly unemployment benefits. Be sure, however, to change your address with the unemployment office at your former state of residence. In addition, you will need to register to work at the workforce office in your new state in order to continue being eligible for unemployment in your prior state of residence. State legislators, however, have passed laws aimed at easing the burden of individuals who have lost jobs due to the global pandemic — including at least 27 states waiving job search requirements as a prerequisite to receiving benefits. 

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