A key component of receiving unemployment insurance is that unemployed workers must be able, available, and actively looking for work in order to be eligible for benefits. Through laws, regulations, and policies, each state defines what “work search” means for UI eligibility purposes. The specific kind and number of work search actions required vary from state to state and sometimes even vary within a state, depending on labor market conditions. Direct contact with potential employers (to fill out applications, submit resumes, or go to an interview, for example) meets the job search requirements for most states, and some states accept other forms of job search such as uploading resumes to on-line job websites and participating in job fairs.
Additionally, UI beneficiaries have documentation requirements for their job search activities. Some states accept an attestation that the requirement was met each week; some states require submission of a written description of work search contacts each week; other states tell beneficiaries to keep a written record of their work search which they can be asked to submit to state staff for review. Some states verify some portion of the submissions, such as a random sample of work search documentation each week or one or two weeks of documentation from each individual.
It cannot be emphasized enough that – if you are drawing unemployment insurance – it is essential for you to learn and follow your state’s rules and policies regarding the following:
- Is there a required number of job search activities you must perform every week? If yes, how many?
- Is there a required number of employer contacts you must perform every week? If yes, how many?
- What are the allowable activities and/or methods of employer contact that will count towards the above requirements?
- What are acceptable methods of documentation for these activities and/or employer contacts?
Failure to follow the state’s requirements can result in loss of benefits or you may risk being overpaid and having to pay money back.
States provide the answers to all of these questions on their UI websites and, in some cases, in paper brochures.
From time to time, state UI agencies may require beneficiaries to report to an American Job Center (AJC), or One-Stop Career Center, to assess their eligibility for benefits, need for reemployment services, or other purposes. If you receive a notice directing you to report to an AJC on a certain day or during a specified week, be sure to go, or phone if you need to reschedule. Failing to report when notified to do so would likely cause your benefits to be suspended.
Likewise, if you receive correspondence from your state UI agency asking for information related to your claim or eligibility for benefits, be sure to respond promptly. If a question comes up about your eligibility for benefits, it must be resolved for you to continue to receive the payments you are entitled to.
Detailed documentation of your reemployment activities will help you with staying organized and on track with your reemployment plan. Knowing what you did and when helps you (and your career coach) identify patterns that you may either build on, if they’ve proven successful, or consider revising, if they’ve not yielded any results.
However, for UI program purposes, the types and quality of your documentation may have a direct impact on your benefit eligibility. Therefore, we recommend that you maintain your reemployment activity documentation in such a way that it is:
- Organized by date and activity type.
- Easily accessible and shareable.
- Safe from destruction, tampering, loss, theft, etc.
Let’s examine these criteria a bit closer.
Organized by Date and Activity Type. Each UI benefit payment you receive is tied to a specific claim week. Within this claim week, you must have met your state’s work search requirements. Therefore, it is important to be able to prove that a) you completed the required number of work search activities within the specified claim week, and b) you completed allowable work search activities.
Easily Accessible and Shareable. As mentioned before, some states require beneficiaries to keep a written record of their work search which they can be asked to submit to state UI staff for review at any given time. Some states that collect information about work search activities try to verify some portion of the submissions, e.g., a random sample each week or one or two weeks from each individual. Therefore, it is important that you can easily access the information and be able to share it with UI staff, when needed.
Safe from Destruction, Tampering, Loss, or Theft. This one is clear. If you are not able to verify your work search activities when required, you may be determined overpaid. Overpayments must be reimbursed to the state UI agency. Keeping your documentation safe will save you a lot of unnecessary headaches.
There are various ways to fulfill these recommendations. Consider the following options, for example:
- State Labor Exchange Electronic Document Management Systems
An electronic document management system (sometimes referred to as EDMS) is a software program that manages the creation, storage, and control of documents electronically. Some state labor exchange systems or state job banks have this feature, which allows customers to store certain documents and/or files online within their state labor exchange system profile. You may find your state’s labor exchange system by visiting the National Labor Exchange website and clicking on your state.
If your state labor exchange system features electronic document management capabilities, we highly encourage you to use it as your document/file management system. Workforce system staff (UI program staff, career counselors, and other officials) will likely have access to your profile so you won’t have to send any additional documentation to them.
Cloud storage is a model in which data is maintained, managed, and backed up remotely and made available to users over the internet. Examples of cloud storage providers include SugarSync, box, and Dropbox. Another option may be Google Drive, which gives you 15 GB of free Google online storage and conveniently works in connection with other services such as Gmail (e-mail) and Google Docs (an online “MS Office‑like” suite of tools). Google Drive also has a feature that can make your documents and files available offline so you can view them without an internet connection.
- Documents/files are stored online, i.e., they can be accessed from any computer, tablet, or smart phone that has an internet connection
- Documents/files are always backed up
- Ability to invite others to view and/or download any documents/files (with or without editing privileges)
- Documents/files can easily be shared as an e-mail attachment
- Ability to collaborate on the same document/file at the same time
- A limited amount of cloud storage is available free of charge
- Service requires you to sign up
- Documents/files are usually not accessible without an internet connection
- Security/privacy risks
A USB flash drive, also known as a flash drive, USB stick, thumb drive, or a variety of other names, is a small, portable, rewritable storage device. These drives are inexpensive and available with various different storage capacities from many retail or online stores.
- Documents/files are portable, i.e., they can be accessed from any computer or tablet with a USB port
- Documents/files are accessible without an internet connection
- Drive is transferrable
- Documents/files can easily be shared as an e-mail attachment
- Drives are easily lost, stolen, or forgotten
- Documents/files have to be backed up in a secondary storage location
- Storage capacity is limited
- Drives must be purchased
- Security/privacy risks
If you are most comfortable with hard copy documents, such as activity journals and documentation notebooks that include copies of resumes/job applications, printouts of online activities, etc., this is certainly an option, but probably not the most effective one. It is much harder to organize, store, access, transport, search, and/or share hard copy documents. It is much cheaper to store records in electronic format than it is in hard copy. Remember that you will not only have to have printer paper and ink, but will also need an entire organizational system, file folders, notebooks, labeling mechanisms, etc. Such a system is cumbersome and may become hard to maintain over longer periods of time.
Regardless of which documentation mechanism you opt for, you should – at all times – maintain:
- Tracking documents for work search activities, employer contacts, networking activities, etc., and
- Detailed backup documentation of each activity, such as:
- Copies of the resumes you uploaded to online job banks.
- Screenshots of online work search activities.
- Copies of job applications.
- Relevant e-mails.