New York State unemployment benefits guide

profile Erin Bruehl  |  March 10, 2021

Losing your job is traumatic, and if you're feeling worried and upset, that's natural. But you're not forced to handle the upset and distress alone. NY unemployment benefits are made to help support you as you transition to a new job.

Officials in New York do a good job of describing how the benefits work. But to synthesize all of the information, you'll need to read dozens or even hundreds of web pages. We've picked out the most important details here, so you can focus on applying for benefits and putting your future back together.

3 Important Eligibility Requirements

People lose their positions for all sorts of reasons. Some jobs and some dismissals are eligible for coverage through the unemployment program, but others are not.

You're likely eligible for checks if you meet all three of these requirements:

  1. Proven work: You've been paid to work for at least two calendar quarters during a base period (more on this concept in a minute).
  2. Financial thresholds: You made at least $2,600 in one of your calendar quarters.
  3. Paycheck stability: Your total wages within the base period are 1.5 times as high as your high-quarter wages.

In general, if you've worked in New York State recently, and you've been paid a reasonable wage during that time, you likely meet basic requirements. But there's one more issue to address.

Unemployment benefits are made for people who lose their jobs without fault. If you quit, take a leave of absence, or otherwise willingly walk away, you lose your benefits. Similarly, if you do something that violates company rules (like not showing up to work repeatedly), you could be denied benefits.

If you're not quite sure if you're eligible, consider filling out the forms anyway. You won't pay application charges or fees. Your only expense is your time. And if you're unemployed, you may have a bit of time to spare.

How to File Your Claim

File within a week of losing your job, experts say. Otherwise, you might lose benefits.

Gather up your wallet, as you'll need your driver's license number and Social Security number. Then, collect all the data you can find about your employers. You'll get asked to supply names, phone numbers, addresses, dates of employment, and more.

With all your paperwork in hand, you're ready to get started. You can submit an application via these methods:

  • Website: Head to the New York Department of Labor site, create an account, and begin filling out your forms.
  • Telephone: Call 1-888-209-8124 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • TTY/TDD: Dial 1-800-622-1220 and ask for the Telephone Claims Center at 1-888-783-1370.

No matter what method you choose, prepare to answer many detailed questions about your work history and your salary. Be as honest and complete as you can when you answer your questions.

Prepare to wait two to three weeks to get your first check or receive a rejection letter. There's nothing you can do to speed up this process.

How Big Will Your Checks Be?

Complicated math sits behind your unemployment checks. Understanding how payments work can help you estimate, but know that officials will determine how much you should get, whether you understand their reasoning or not.

  • Your final paycheck is determined by evaluating these:
  • Your base period: A representation of your wages, split up into four 3-month blocks, is your base period.
  • Your wages: How much you made during each quarter within the base period is important.

After assessing the relationship between your wages and your base period quarters, you're placed into categories. Each one represents high wages paid within just one quarter in your base period.

  • More than $3,575: You'll get paid your high quarter wages divided by 26 per week. If your math totals less than $143, you'll get $143 instead.
  • $3,575 or less: You'll get wages from your highest quarter divided by 25 or $104, whichever is higher.

Don't let the math worry you. New York does offer a weekly payment calculator. Place your quarterly wages within this tool, and you'll find out just how big your unemployment checks will be, if you qualify.

Do This to Keep Your Checks

Once your unemployment benefits begin appearing, you'll want to keep them. But you must take steps to do so. Skip even one, and your checks could stop for good.

To keep your benefits, you must:

  • Look for work. Benefits are for people ready and willing to work. Keep a detailed record of your job hunt, including the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the companies you contacted about a new job. You may not be asked to provide this form every week, but it's best to keep it handy just in case you are asked for it.
  • Accept a job, if possible. If you're offered a job appropriate for your training and experience, and the salary is within normal limits, you must take that opportunity. If you don't because you're not ready or don't want to, you could lose benefits.
  • Appear when asked. If you have an appointment made to discuss your benefits, you must appear. And if you're called or otherwise tapped for information, you must provide it.

Every week, you must contact the Department of Labor and claim your benefits. You can do that via the website, or you can call 1-888-581-5812.

Officials say most people claim benefits on Sunday for the week that ends on Sunday. Officials also say you'll get the quickest response if you use the website to certify your status.

5 Important Contact Methods

You'll work closely with the Department of Labor as you work through the unemployment process. Keep contact information handy, so you'll know how to reach out when you need to do so.

You can reach the New York State Department of Labor via various methods.

  • Internet connection: Bookmark your login page, so you can hop online once per week to claim your benefits.
  • Online message: Sign into your online page, click the envelope in the upper-right corner, and tap out your note.
  • Telephone: Reach the Claims Center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 888-209-8124.
  • TTY/TDD: Call 800-622-1200 and ask the operator to dial 888-783-1370.
  • Video relay: Contact your operator and ask that person to call 888-783-1370.

Make a point to check your messages often, and answer all questions the team asks you. And if you have questions, don't be afraid to reach out!

Tiny errors can turn into huge problems that cost you benefits. Be upfront and communicative to avoid any issues.

Get Your Money Faster With Current

When you sign up for NY unemployment benefits, you're given a choice. Accept your money via a prepaid card the team sends you, or sign up for direct deposit and allow them to put money into an account you designate.

Sign up with your Current premium account and routing numbers, and you'll get your money up to two days faster with direct deposit.

New York uses an electronic system to transfer money from their account to yours. Most banks accept the money, and they then hang onto it for a few days to process it. We don't. As soon as your money arrives, it's yours.

Find out more about how Current can help you get the money you deserve and spend it wisely.  Download our app and create an account in just two minutes.

Banking services provided by Choice Financial Group, Member FDIC. The Current Visa Debit Card is issued by Choice Financial Group pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.


Before You Apply for Unemployment: Frequently Asked Questions. New York State Department of Labor.

File Your First Claim for Benefits. New York State Department of Labor.

Work Search: Frequently Asked Questions. New York State Department of Labor.

The Hearing Process: Frequently Asked Questions. New York State Department of Labor.

Guide for Claiming Weekly UI Benefits. New York State Department of Labor.

How Your Weekly Unemployment Insurance Benefit Payment is Calculated. (September 2019). New York State Department of Labor.

Estimate Weekly Unemployment Insurance Benefits. New York State Department of Labor.

Unemployment Insurance: A Bridge to Your Next Career. (January 2020). New York State Department of Labor.

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