Unemployment Benefits: When to Expect the Check

For many unemployed applying for benefits in hopes of being able to cover the rent, the message seems to be: don't necessarily expect the benefit check in the near future.

Right now hundreds of thousands of unemployed U.S. workers are waiting months for their unemployment benefit checks, according to The New York Times.

Millions of applications are being reviewed at a slow rate, many on a timetable that violates federal guidelines. In the meantime many state's benefits coffers are depleted or on the verge of being emptied.

According to the Times, of the recession's 12.8 million unemployment benefit eligibility reviews, 4.6 million took longer than three weeks. The system is not prepared for the recession's strain, either. At the moment 28 states are tardy in terms of reviews, including California, whose system runs on COBOL, a computer language whose heyday was in the 1960s.

What You Can Do

An emergency fund, which experts generally suggest should be at least six months of expenses saved up, is usually the best way to bridge the time from when your paycheck stops to the time when your unemployment benefit checks begin to arrive.

If an emergency fund is not in your picture, it is best to apply early and be persistent in following up your application with a caseworker or through the appropriate channels. The government has information online about eligibility requirements. A directory of state agencies is also available online, although it should be noted that not all states allow you to apply for benefits online.

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