Occasionally a job seeker may accept short-term projects to help make ends meet during periods of unemployment. If you are already receiving unemployment benefits, those benefits are reduced or placed on hold while you are working the temporary job. Once the project ends, it's possible to receive full unemployment benefits again. Whether you qualify depends on your wages from the project and what you do after the project ends.
Employer Size Matters
To qualify for unemployment insurance, your employer must pay state unemployment insurance taxes. If an employer does not pay into the unemployment insurance program, you won't receive benefits. Whether an employer pays into unemployment depends on how many employees she has and the amount of paid wages. The employee count and wage amount vary by state. To determine whether your employer is required to pay unemployment insurance taxes, contact your state's unemployment insurance agency.
Other Available Projects
Whether you can collect unemployment after a project ends depends on whether a new project is available. If you refuse to accept a new project, it can disqualify you from receiving unemployment. If the expired project was with a temp agency, you must check in daily with the temp agency to see if new projects are available. Don't sit around waiting for the temp agency to call you – that may not happen. If you fail to contact the temp agency, the unemployment office can charge you with job abandonment or quitting. Quitting can disqualify you from collecting unemployment.
Base Period Wages
Another determining factor is how much you earn during the “base period.” The base period is one year to 15 months leading up to the expiration of your project. Each state requires a specific amount of wages during your base period. If you don't earn enough, you won't qualify for benefits. Contact your local unemployment agency to determine the specific base period requirements for your state.
Before Accepting Projects
There are important precautions to take if you have already been approved for unemployment. If you accept a short-term assignment that pays less than your last stable job, your base period wages will decrease. For instance, if your last stable job paid $15 per hour and the temporary project only pays $7.50 per hour, your base period wages may be cut in half. This is especially true if you intend to work the temporary project for several months. Ask about the wages before accepting that first project. If the wages are too low, you can always tell the unemployment agency the project was unsuitable. You are not penalized for refusing unsuitable work.
- NELP: Temp Work and Unemployment Insurance
- The Boston Globe: Losing Unemployment Insurance Benefits By Finding Temp Work
- South Brooklyn Legal Services: Unemployment Benefits For Seasonal, Temporary and Part Time Workers
- LARA: Who Is Required To Pay Unemployment Insurance Taxes?
- Tennessee: Employer Services
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