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Unemployment benefits can provide emergency financial support if you’ve found yourself out of a job. The benefits are meant to be temporary to help you pay bills and cover necessary expenses while you look for another job.

If you’ve ever applied for unemployment before, you know the process can be difficult. But what if you’re able to get approved for benefits and they run out before your income is on the upswing? Find out what to do when unemployment benefits run out.

Unemployment Benefits Basics

The amount of unemployment you get and the length of time you can qualify for it varies by individual situation and state. But typically, unemployment benefits are paid out for 13 to 26 weeks. When your benefits are about to expire or have expired, you usually receive notification from the agency handling your benefits. Once the benefits are up, you stop receiving payments.

Apply for an Extension of Unemployment Benefits

In some cases, you might be able to apply for an extension of unemployment benefits. If that’s the case, the instructions for doing so would be included in the notification that your benefits were ending.

If you get a job and then later lose that job, you may be able to apply for unemployment benefits again. The rules governing second rounds of benefits depend on your state and how long you were employed before losing the next job.

Look for Emergency Unemployment Compensation

In times of recession or other emergency that cause high rates of unemployment, such as during the coronavirus pandemic, states and/or the federal government often move to extend unemployment.

For example, the CARES Act passed in response to economic hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic allows states to offer up to 13 extra weeks of unemployment. These payments are offered under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance benefits, which can be applied for after you exhaust your state unemployment benefits.

Apply for Assistance Programs

While you’re on unemployment or afterward, don’t forget to look into other assistance programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) help cover the cost of food for qualifying individuals, for example.

You might also qualify for Medicaid health benefits, Social Security benefits, or local and private assistance with education, child care or other necessary costs. By taking advantage of these programs, you help stretch your unemployment benefits as far as they can go.

Apply for the Self-Employment Assistance Program

If you’re having trouble finding a job in your niche, consider creating one for yourself. You can do the work to set up a business and start putting yourself out there while you’re on unemployment. Hopefully by the time your benefits run out, you’re starting to draw clients. As a self-employed individual, you might also qualify for financial tools such as small-business loans or grants through the Self-Employment Assistance Program.

Look into Nontraditional Employment

If you haven’t found a job yet, look for nontraditional or part-time work. You can freelance as an artist, writer, or even driver in the gig economy. You might also sign up to deliver groceries, mystery shop or drive people for Lyft or Uber. If you’re crafty, you can make things to sell online—just make sure you can get enough for your goods to cover the cost of materials and make a profit. Resources like Coursera can help you learn new skills, while others like ZipRecruiter can help you find available jobs.

Reach Out to Other Resources

Reach out to resources like United Way 2-1-1 for help. Your local 2-1-1 can direct you to resources in your area to help with food and housing expenses, healthcare, and other financial assistance.

Actions to Take When Unemployment Benefits Run Out

Even with extended benefits during times of great need, unemployment isn’t designed to last forever. If your benefits run out before you’re able to replace your income with a new full-time job, there may be other options that can help you. Start with this list and reach out to your state department of labor and other local resources for more information.

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