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Partial Unemployment Benefits: Eligibility Requirements & How To Apply

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In a Nutshell

If you were working full time before and now only work part time, you may be wondering if you qualify for unemployment benefits. You can still collect partial unemployment benefits if you are working a part time job. Eligibility will depend on your state’s laws, the number of hours you work each week, and how much you’re making. In this article, we will look at how unemployment benefits work for part-time workers and how you can get the largest unemployment benefit payment possible.

Written by the Upsolve TeamLegally reviewed by Attorney Andrea Wimmer
Updated August 30, 2021

If you are one of the thousands of employees who have either lost their job or had their hours drastically reduced as a result of the pandemic, then you may be collecting unemployment benefits right now. But what happens if you were working full time before and now only work part time? Does that make you ineligible to collect unemployment benefits? 

Luckily, you can still collect partial unemployment benefits. This should help you cover your bases financially. In this article, we will look at how unemployment benefits work for part-time workers and how you can get the largest unemployment benefit payment possible. 

Partial Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are paid to workers who have been laid off or had their hours reduced. A worker’s current employment status will determine how much unemployment assistance they are eligible for. Individuals who are unemployed will receive more benefits, while those who work part-time will receive less. Part-time workers are eligible to receive a lower monthly benefit for at least a certain period of time (such as a calendar quarter during the benefit year) until they can find full-time work again. 

More people have found themselves in this situation recently because of the pandemic. The coronavirus has had a severe impact on the economy. Many workers have lost their jobs, experienced a layoff, been furloughed, or settled for part-time work. This has put a tremendous financial strain on state governments and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Both have been scrambling to fund workers’ unemployment benefits. 

The eligibility requirements for part-time unemployment benefits differ by state, so be sure to check with your state to learn about what the rules are where you live. In some instances, it’s possible to work part time and still collect your full unemployment benefit. But certain conditions may apply, so be sure to know the rules before taking on a new job. 

How Partial Unemployment Benefits Are Funded

Partial unemployment benefits are funded in the same way that full benefits are. They are taken from the state taxes that employers withhold from all employees’ paychecks. As with federal tax withholdings, state tax withholdings are based on the level of the employee’s wages. Every state has its own unemployment insurance fund. The amount collected varies from state to state, and the Department of Labor (DOL) also helps out at the federal level with financial assistance for states when they need it.

When a former employee files for benefits, the state will contact their former employer and give them a chance to contest the benefits. This helps prevent fraud and ensures employees who are not eligible for benefits do not receive them. Employees who were discharged due to misconduct, terminated for cause, or simply changed roles within an organization are not eligible to receive benefits. For example, an employee who was fired with cause is not eligible to collect benefits because their job loss was due to their own actions. Their lack of work was not beyond their control. 

Eligibility Requirements for Partial Unemployment Benefits

Each state determines its own eligibility requirements for partial unemployment benefits. But, no matter which state they live in, all claimants have to satisfy certain basic criteria. They must be able and willing to work full time if they can. They must also report all hours they have worked in the course of part-time employment plus their gross earnings. They must also work a certain minimum number of hours and earn at least a certain amount. These limits vary by state. 

Prospective claimants need to check with their state’s unemployment office website for a complete list of necessary requirements. Some states require claimants to report how many jobs they applied for each week, while others have less stringent requirements. It’s important to understand that collecting unemployment benefits is not simply a matter of sending in a notification and then expecting to get a check every week.

Here are a few examples of how unemployment benefits are calculated in different states. New York’s unemployment agency determines weekly benefits for part-time workers (those working less than 30 hours a week) by looking at the number of hours a claimant works each week.  

Part-time workers who work four hours or less in a given week won't see any reduction in their weekly unemployment benefit. Those who work five to 10 hours will get 75% of their weekly benefit. As the number of hours worked increases, the percentage of a worker’s weekly benefit amount decreases.

The rules for the state of Connecticut are a bit simpler. Claimants can work less than full time and the first 33.33% of their wages for a week are disregarded. Anything over that is subtracted from their weekly benefit amount. California’s laws are similar to Connecticut’s, but the threshold is a little lower. In California, the first 25% of their wages do not count, and anything over that is subtracted from their weekly benefit amount. 

When Can’t a Claimant File for Partial Unemployment Benefits?

In some cases, workers aren’t eligible to receive unemployment benefits. For example, if a claimant has voluntarily reduced their work hours from full time to part time, they won’t be eligible for benefits. A claimant must have their hours involuntarily reduced to be eligible for benefits. Claimants who have reduced their hours in this fashion for whatever reason should seek legal counsel to see whether this will impact their benefits. A qualified workplace attorney can usually tell a claimant immediately how their benefits will or won’t be impacted.

How To Apply for Partial Unemployment Benefits

You can file for partial unemployment benefits in the same way that you file for full benefits. It is important to file a claim as soon as you become eligible so that you can start collecting benefits as soon as possible. Doing so will also help prevent someone else from filing a fraudulent claim in your name. If someone else files in your name before you can, you’ll need to contact your state’s unemployment office and notify them of the mixup. You will most likely have to make a personal appearance and show your ID to prove your identity. 

You can likely file your claim either via telephone or online at your state unemployment department’s website. Once the state has received your claim, it will either accept or deny the claim based on your eligibility and the information at its disposal. It generally takes two to three weeks to get a check from the time the application was received. Many state unemployment insurance websites show claimants where they are in the consideration process, so check back regularly to see what your status is until you get your money. 

If your application is rejected, don’t hesitate to appeal this ruling with your state. In many cases, an initial rejection can be reversed if you can show proof that you deserve your benefits. Just be sure to have all of the information that the state will need ready to show them when you present your appeal. 

How Are Partial Unemployment Benefits Determined?

Partial unemployment benefits are calculated in the same way as full benefits are. The state looks at the applicant's earning history and length of employment to determine a base period. It will also consider the date they became unemployed and the number of hours they're currently working at a part-time job. It plugs this information into a formula to calculate the benefit amount that the applicant qualifies for.

The benefit will also be determined by how much the applicant is currently making in their part-time job. Some states specify that those who make more than a certain dollar amount are ineligible for benefits, while other states have created a table of earnings that determines how much will be paid. You will need to check with your state to see what formula will be used to determine your benefit. 

How Long Can a Claimant Collect Partial Unemployment Insurance Benefits?

How long workers can collect unemployment benefits will vary from one state to another, but in most cases, it’s about 26 weeks. Some states, such as Florida and the Carolinas, offer less than 26 weeks, while other states such as New York, California, and the District of Columbia provide benefits for a longer period. 

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COVID-19 Pandemic and the CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill contained $2 trillion in financial aid designed to help American workers stay afloat financially when they couldn’t find work. This legislation paid stimulus checks to all Americans with incomes under a certain amount. Single filers got $1,200 and married filers got twice that amount. 

The CARES Act substantially expanded which workers are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. For example, gig workers and independent contractors became eligible to apply for benefits. Millions of Americans received benefits under the CARES Act that helped them to weather the effects of the pandemic. 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was also created under the CARES Act. PUA stretched unemployment insurance benefits for an additional 39 weeks during 2020. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provision temporarily added $600 a week to the regular weekly unemployment benefit. The CARES Act also extended unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks for many workers under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation provision. 

Let’s Summarize...

Unemployment benefits have helped millions of Americans get through the coronavirus pandemic. This is true even of those who still had or have part-time work to fall back on. It is still possible to get some or all of your unemployment benefits if you work part time. Eligibility will depend on your state’s laws, the number of hours you work each week, and how much you’re making. Visit your state’s unemployment department website for additional information.

Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

Attorney Andrea Wimmer


Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team as Managing Editor. While in private practice, Andrea handled... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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