Living on the dole.
April 24, 2012 8:44 AM   Subscribe

What is it like to be on unemployment? Specifically, I have a few questions about being on unemployment I'd like to ask.

I live in Wyoming. My wife lives in Denver. I'd like to live in Denver too. I haven't been able to find a job there, so I'm considering going back to school.

The state of Wyoming is having a budget crisis and the place where I work has to trim 8% of our budget, so I'm guessing people are going to be laid off. I might be one of them. If I am, and I go on unemployment, can I:

1) Be on unemployment while I get a Master's degree?
2) Still get unemployment from Wyoming if I move to Colorado?

I'm generally curious about what it's like to live "on the dole." Assuming I'm financially pretty secure and going to school, is there anything else to be stressed out about?

posted by Fister Roboto to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The answer will be very state specific. In Virginia, you cannot collect unemployment while you are a student.
posted by k5.user at 8:48 AM on April 24, 2012

Students - If you are a full-time student, you are not available for work. However, you can still get unemployment if you can show all of the following:

You attended school full-time and worked full-time for the nine months before you filed for unemployment; and
You did not leave suitable full-time work or reduce your hours to part-time work.
You are a part-time student, and you show that schooling is secondary to full-time employment.;
You did not quit full-time work to be a part-time student;
There is full-time work available at times when you do not attend class;
You will change your class time or drop classes to accept full-time work.

2. It's possible.
posted by Katine at 8:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The answer to #1 is Wyoming-specific, from the Wyoming unemployment info page.
posted by Katine at 8:50 AM on April 24, 2012

Sometimes they check in to see whether or not you are actively looking for work. If you get laid off you could go on unemployment for a bit to figure out what you want to do, but once you pursue something else it probably won't work out depending on the specific laws in your state.

I was on it for a few months in a different state and moved to another state for school. I stopped collecting right after I moved but probably would have had to anyway because they wanted to set up a meeting to check my job searching progress.
posted by fromageball at 9:18 AM on April 24, 2012

Be *very* VERY careful about reporting anything that might be work. When my husband was on partial unemployment, he accidentally under-reported one week, by four hours. When he was finally laid off for good almost a year later, that came back to bite us to the tune of being denied benefits for the first 7 weeks of his unemployment as punishment, which was crippling.
posted by upatree at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2012

Your benefits will follow the rules of Wyoming, so apply there. I know in Colorado you cannot go to school full time.
posted by Isadorady at 10:41 AM on April 24, 2012

The most stressful thing about UI is following ALL of the rules, some of which are not as publicised as the obvious things like tracking your job searching and meeting the minimum number of valid contacts per week.

Blogging, for example, on a site where ads are run, could qualify as self-employment if you get any cut at all, and you could end up in the situation described by upatree.

Generally, full-time school and UI don't go together - you have to be able to find, get, and keep a full-time job to qualify for UI.

The people I saw who did anything even vaguely similar were diligent job searchers, banking as much of their UI as possible, then quit making claims in time to start school to preserve their claim funds. Their UI provided a cushion on top of loans (one case) and a part-time job (the other).
posted by batmonkey at 11:13 AM on April 24, 2012

I was unable to find Wyoming's specific rules on this, but I was on Washington unemployment and they are very strict about not being able to be in school full or part time. I was required to take a class explaining unemployment benefits and there were several stunned college students in the room who were receiving unemployment already from their previous jobs and who had no idea that being "able, available and actively seeking work" meant that you had to be available ALL the time for work, and being in school, even for just one class, means that you're unavailable.

The reasoning behind this, I guess, is that when you're unemployed, the government wants nothing to stand in your way of accepting any reasonable job offer, and even taking one class a week might stop you from accepting a job. I'm guessing most states feel this way, even though logically getting your Master's would help you find a job.

We were also told that if you were to travel, say, over the weekend that you shouldn't claim for that week as you weren't available, 24/7, to accept a job. Yes, this is ridiculous.

So many of the rules of unemployment are vague and ill-defined. I was on it for almost two years and had to call in (and wait on hold for over an hour, sometimes) to ask questions so that I was doing everything right.

As far as your other question, I received unemployment compensation from Washington in both Michigan and Arizona--whichever state you get it from is responsible, even if you move. You just need to register with the local unemployment office, and in my case instead of just verifying that I had applied for three jobs every week like I did when I lived in the state by submitting on online form that said, yes, I have done this, I had to supply all the contact information, details of the job, and the result of the job application. It doesn't seem like that much work, but it's a huge hassle--finding three jobs every week to apply for and keeping track of everything became tedious in the end.
posted by thesocietyfor at 12:59 PM on April 24, 2012

I was on unemployment in Colorado for two years, ending in December 2010.

You can collect unemployment in Colorado if you were laid off in another state. I know because a friend of a friend moved here from Florida and successfully collected UI.

Also, I went the entire two years, until benefits plus extensions ran out, and then collected again for six weeks after I'd worked a three-month contract job, without ever talking to or seeing a human being at the UI offices. I did everything online. No one ever checked on me and I stopped keeping track of the hundreds of jobs I was applying to after about six months of throwing resumes into a black hole (but I did save my sent job app emails just in case).

You cannot legally go to school while collecting unemployment. This is a stupid, stupid rule. However, I don't know how the state would find out that you did go to school. While I would never encourage you to break the law, it is possible that the CO dept of labor might never find out you were in school. If they did you'd have to pay the money back.

What to be stressed about: If you aren't freaked out about being able to pay your bills, it's tolerable. Make a budget and stick to it. Have some savings for emergencies.

You will be given a choice of whether to have your benefits deposited to a bank account or placed on a debit card. DO NOT CHOOSE THE DEBIT CARD. The bank that issues it will charge you fees to use your benefits. With direct deposit (credit unions are good) you can avoid the fees.

You have to pay taxes on unemployment benefits, thanks to a Reagan-era law. You can choose to have taxes taken out of your check or not. Just be aware that you will be paying taxes one way or the other.
posted by caryatid at 5:43 PM on April 24, 2012

« Older How should we approach the person who dinged our...   |   Where (UK) can I buy mens' boots / shoes that look... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.