A Guide to Certifying for Unemployment Benefits

What is certification, and how does it work?

What is certifying?

Once approved for your unemployment benefits, the process is still not over. An important step to remember is that you have to certify your benefits (in some states this is known as "claiming" your benefits"). This should be done every week, or every 2 weeks, depending on your state. By certifying your benefits, you are confirming you are still eligible for the benefit.

Online Certification

The certification process can be completed online in most cases. This is the fastest way to certify, and will result in getting the money quicker. To certify for benefits online, you will need to log into your unemployment benefits portal and find the link that takes you to the certification page, then complete the certification in your browser by answering all certification questions accordingly.

Phone Certification

You can also certify by phone (known as "TeleCert", or "TeleBenefits"). To do so, look for the correct phone number on your state's unemployment website. You may be required to input your PIN, or create one if you haven't yet. Then, follow all the prompts to cerify by phone using your keypad.

Mail Certification

If online cerifying or phone certifying is not possible for you, some states let you certify by mail. You will fill in and sign the certification forms and mail them to the address listed on the form. This is obviously the slowest way to certify and you will have to wait longer for your money until your certification form is received and processed by your state's unemployment office.

Certification Questions

The certification process itself involved answering a series of questions to determine your eligibility for benefits. Questions vary by state, but all of them check similiar eligibility requirements, such us whether you were available for work or have received any income for the week you are certifying for. For example, California's EDD certification questionnaire is as follows:
1. Were you too sick or injured to work for reasons other thaqn disaster?
1a. If yes, enter the number of days (1-7) you were unable to work
2. Was there any reason (other than sickness, injury, or the disaster) that you could not have accepted full time work each workday?
3. Did you look for work or contat your last employer, or, if self-employed, did you attempt to resume self-employment?
4. Did you refuse any work?
5. Did you receive disability, private income insurance, or supplemental unemployment benefits?
6. Did you work or earn money, whether you were paid or not? If self-employed, report earnings during the week you receive the money.
6a. Did you receive any other income this week based on work performed?
7. If you want federal income tax withheld for the week(s), check the box to the right.
8. If you had a change of mailing address or phone number, check the box to the right.
Answer the questions truthfully, as failure to report work or income may lead to penalties in the future and you may be required to re-pay your benefits if the unemployment office later determines you were not not eligible for them.
CA EDD Certification Questions

Certification Status

Once you have answered all the questions, the status will generally change to "pending" for that week (or 2 weeks if certifying Bi-Weekly). Depending on the state, it can take a few hours or a few days for the status to change to "approved", after which payment will be processed. However, certain answers to the questions can lead to immediate disqualification or cause your status to remain in "certification pending" status pending manual review. For example, this might happen if you answered "Yes" to the question about refusing work or "No" to the question about being available for work.

What happens if you don't certify?

If you forget to certify for a certain week (or 2 weeks, if certifying BiWeekly), your unemployment insurance claim may be closed and you will be required to re-apply or to contact the unemployment office in order to get it re-opened. So always remember to ceritfy as it may be very time consuming to fix the situation if you fail to do so. Check your state's website for the time certification becomes available. In many states you can certify as early as 12:01AM of the week you are certifying for.

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