How to Apply for Unemployment in New York

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on March 25, 2020

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Lost your job? Here's what you need to know about unemployment benefits.

Millions of Americans are losing their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis. If that's happened to you, you should file for unemployment benefits right away -- even if your layoff is temporary and you expect to start working again once the business that employs you reopens. Here's what you need to know about applying for unemployment in New York State.

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

To qualify for unemployment benefits, you'll need to have been a salaried or hourly worker on another company's payroll; self-employed or freelance workers can't claim unemployment. Furthermore, you must:

  • Have lost your job due to no fault of your own 
  • Have enough earnings to establish a claim (for claims filed in 2020, this means having earned at least $2,600 in the calendar quarter with your highest wages on record over your base period, which is the earliest four of the five completed calendar quarters prior to your benefits claim)
  • Be ready and able to work immediately
  • Be actively looking for a new job

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

You can apply for unemployment benefits by phone at 1-888-209-8124 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online through New York State's Department of Labor as follows:

  • If your last name starts with A–F, file your claim on Monday
  • If your last name starts with G–N, file your claim on Tuesday
  • If your last name starting with O–Z, file your claim on Wednesday
  • If you miss your initial filing day, file your claim on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday

To apply for benefits, you'll need to provide your:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver's license or Motor Vehicle ID card number 
  • Complete mailing address 
  • Phone number 
  • Alien Registration card number if you're not a U.S. citizen
  • Employment details from the past 18 months
  • Copies of forms SF8 and SF50 if you were a federal employee
  • Most recent separation form (DD 214) for military service

How much money will I receive in unemployment benefits?

Your weekly benefit equals 1/26 of the wages you earned during the highest-paid calendar quarter that's factored into your benefits application. For example, if you earned $10,000 during your highest-paid quarter, your weekly benefit will be $384. However, there's a maximum benefit you can collect regardless of earnings, and that's $504 per week. 

How long can I collect unemployment benefits?

Currently, New York State will pay you up to 26 weeks of benefits during a one-year period. In the past, that benefit period has been extended during times of crisis, such as during the Great Recession, so it could happen again. 

In addition, the CARES Act extends your benefit period by 13 weeks, allowing you to collect unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.

What if my unemployment claim is denied?

If your unemployment claim is denied, you'll receive a Notice of Determination telling you the reason(s) why. At that point, you can appeal that denial within 30 days. If you win that appeal, you'll be entitled to benefits retroactive to your initial application date. 

Don't delay

It's important to file a claim for unemployment benefits as soon as you lose your job. Though you'd normally be subject to a seven-day waiting period following your claim, New York State is waiving that waiting period for those impacted by COVID-19, so the sooner you file, the sooner you can start getting that money in your bank account.

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