Being unemployed is stressful enough, but it's even more stressful when you have dependents to care for. In some states, you can collect a small dependent benefit in addition to your unemployment payments. A dependent is usually a spouse or child you support financially. In some states the amount is set and in others it's a percentage. When you apply for the dependency benefit, you may have to provide documents to support your claim.
Unemployment Dependency Benefits
In some states, you can have an additional amount added to your unemployment benefits based on the number of dependents you have to support. The reason some states offer this is that claimants with dependents incur extra costs of living, including rent and food. Unemployment benefits aren't meant to pay for all of your expenses nor are they based on need, but dependency benefits are an exception. Check with your state's department of labor to determine if it offers this benefit for unemployment (see Resources).
Definition of Dependent
How your state defines a dependent can determine whether you can qualify for dependency benefits. Normally, the dependent can only be your spouse or your child under 25 years old. You must be the main financial provider for this person. In most states, you can't claim a dependent on unemployment benefits unless that dependent is also unemployed.
The Amount of Dependency Benefits
How much you can get per unemployment payment for dependency benefits depends on the way your state distributes them. Some states, such as Illinois, offers a set amount per dependent and just adds that to your normal benefit amount. Other states, like Massachusetts, offer a percentage of your unemployment payment as your dependency benefit. There's usually a cap of two or three dependents. Dependency benefits are also limited to the state maximum benefit amount. Once you reach that threshold, you can't collect anything more, even if you're entitled to dependency benefits.
If you want to receive dependency benefits, you have to indicate your dependents on your application and submit their Social Security number and date of birth. You need their Social Security number so the department of labor can check their employment status and age. In some cases, you may need to provide a copy of the birth certificates or child custody paperwork. Each state's requirements vary, so check with your state's labor office for the specifics that apply to you (see Resources).