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Unemployment Insurance – Get Your Money

By Buzz Roddy
Membership Education Committee

“Unemployment insurance is not charity – it is a right,” I hectored Members who attended AEA’s New York City seminar, “Unemployment Insurance – Get Your Money.”
Many of us do not realize that while we are employed and drawing a paycheck, the employer is obliged to make contributions based on those earnings to the state Unemployment Insurance Fund from which U/I benefits are paid. To get it, all we have to do is put in a claim.

We are indeed entitled to this money, but how to navigate the byzantine protocols of the various states’ departments of labor?  What to do when Department of Labor claims specialists, unfamiliar with our category of employment, miscalculate or even deny our claims?

The October 7, 2013 seminar was hosted by the Membership Education committee. On hand was Unemployment Insurance (UI) expert Brian Curtis, Supervisor of Labor Disputes for the NY State Department of Labor.  Mr. Curtis walked us through eligibility, filing a claim, and getting ones benefit rate correct.  Possessing 36 years of experience and a gift of clarity, Curtis succeeded in delivering information in bite-sized chunks and answered members’ questions.  (In other hands, these two hours might have been a snore-fest, but the discussion was lively and enlightening.)  The seminar left Members empowered and even smiling with the knowledge that opening and managing an Unemployment Insurance claim is fully within their capabilities.

Some insights and advice:

•  UI is not charity.  It is a right.
•  UI applies to W-2 wages, not 1099 jobs
•  Your UI benefit rate is based on your past earnings
•  You can apply for UI benefits in the state that you live or in the states where you have worked
•  Keep good records (paystubs, W-2s, etc)
•  Can I work while collecting UI? (Answer: Yes—in certain circumstances)
•  Never send original documents to prove a claim
•  Learn the time constraints in opening or appealing a claim
•  Know your benefit rate to the penny before you file
•  If your benefits are denied – appeal. Never give up

So many actors who ask me about UI are either intimidated or ashamed about collecting.  There is no reason to be either.  Learning your states’ UI system and eligibility criteria, though daunting is not impossible.  And you, as a dues-paying member have help—and she has a name: Valerie LaVarco, Equity Business Representative for Unemployment/Worker's Compensation. She is your go-to unemployment insurance specialist. If you have a problem or question, contact her at vlavarco@actorsequity.org or at 212-869-8530.

Unemployment Insurance is for most of us a necessary bridge between jobs which allows us to keep up that dance class; pay the rent; eat.  And this money has been set aside for your use.

Now - get your money!

 



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