Losing a job is often unexpected and always stressful. You’ll wonder how to pay the bills, put food on the table, and deal with unexpected medical emergencies. There are services to assist the unemployed, regardless of the reason for the unemployment. Often these services are the same as the ones offered to low-income households. Local non-profit community agencies will also provide assistance in many ways that you might not expect. Contacting your local 211 helpline can be a good early step in the process to find aid during this stressful period.
Unemployment Insurance (do this right away)
Employers pay into an Unemployment Insurance system (through payroll taxes) that provides benefits to eligible workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Depending on the state, those who get fired “for cause” may become eligible after a certain amount of time. Unemployment insurance provides a weekly payment based on a person’s previous monthly income but typically maxes out at $450 per week.
Once unemployed, you should immediately contact the state’s unemployment office to begin the application process. It can sometimes take a week or more for benefits to kick in. The unemployment office will give you information on your responsibilities (searching for employment and reporting income) during your time of receiving unemployment benefits. States have different regulations on how long benefits last, but typically, workers are eligible for 26 weeks of benefits. You may work part time and still receive benefits, but make sure you accurately report hours and earnings. You will have to pay back any benefit you receive from misreporting.
SNAP & other food benefits
Even with a part-time job, you might qualify for SNAP benefits. SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called “Food Stamps,” that provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families. SNAP provides recipients with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that allows them to purchase groceries at a variety of stores and farmer’s markets. SNAP cards will only purchase foods for home consumption and cannot include alcohol or tobacco products, non-food items, or pet food. Contact your local Department of Human Services for information on your state’s SNAP eligibility requirements.
In Oregon, certain farmer’s markets will match your SNAP funds to make them go further. Other states have programs that serve SNAP recipients, such as assistance for utilities or family activities. Local gleaners also donate fresh fruit and vegetables to local pantries to supplement the groceries and give more healthy options to families.
Feeding America is a network of food banks/pantries that provide free groceries to individuals and families in need. Food banks receive excess groceries from local stores and bakeries that might be near their expiration dates. Food banks then distribute groceries to local food pantries that hand out the food to local recipients. This food is free and does not come out of the SNAP EBT funds. SNAP recipients usually automatically qualify to receive food bank groceries with proof of enrollment in the program. Other individuals and families in need can qualify as well. Feeding America has a map to help locate local food banks across the US.
If you have children or teens, there are food options for them as well, from free and reduced breakfasts & lunches at school to free summer lunch programs at the park. You may ask your school for an application anytime during the school year for their free and reduced lunch program. Summer Food Service Programs run throughout the US, often through community programs and parks services.
211 is a helpline, a resource, a way to connect to community services. It is maintained by the United Way and Alliance for Information and Referral Systems. It provides information on food banks, services for elderly, treatment centers, job training, employment, housing services and more. Contact 211 to see if they provide services for your area. They can refer you to local non-profits that specialize in helping those who lose their jobs and need assistance until they find work again.
Job Finding Resources
Ideally, you will not be out of a job for long. Your unemployment office has job finding services, and it is often a requirement to apply for those services to receive unemployment benefits.
Depending on the type of work you are looking for, there are many, many job sites to search.
Temporary employment agencies are another good way to find both short-term and long-term work. Some jobs may be only a few days to fill in for a current employee while other positions might be contract jobs. These can lead to excellent networking opportunities and can help you get your foot in the door for future permanent positions. Research your local temp agencies. Some will specialize in certain fields while others will contract primarily with large corporations.