Impacted by mass layoff (3/3): What to do in the first 24 hours to claim unemployment benefits

Author: Elizabeth Kuzila; MBA Candidate. 15 years in the Apparel Industry, Recently Laid off.

I was caught off guard when my colleagues and I were laid off without warning in October 2022. 

Recently, layoffs are in the news almost every day. The loss of stability and work identity, your vacant calendar, and the grueling prospect of looking for a new job can feel overwhelming. Here are some of the strategic steps you should first review to re-take charge of your circumstances and pave the way for a smoother journey ahead. 

  1. Review Severance Package: If a severance package is offered, carefully review its terms. Understand the financial compensation, healthcare coverage, and any other benefits it includes.
  2. Safeguard Your Benefits Providers: As Single Sign-On (SSO) access cease post-termination almost immediately, take proactive steps. Update your login information for essential providers, such as your 401k, equity/RSU, and insurance from SSO to your personal email/phone number. This ensures you maintain access to your crucial accounts.
  3. Organize Tax Documents: Download your W-2 and payslips for convenient tax filing. Additionally, secure a PDF copy of your verification of employment. This document can be invaluable for future references where proof of your work history is necessary.
  4. Catalog Self-Reviews and Feedback: If available, compile your self-reviews and feedback received from colleagues. These records serve as a valuable resource when updating your resume or preparing for future opportunities.
  5. Manage Personal Devices: If you combined your work and personal phone number/device, take steps to release your work phone line as your personal phone number. This prevents communication disruptions and avoids issues if your work number was used to verify access to personal accounts.
  6. Claim Used Benefit Expenses: Submit any eligible benefit expenses promptly. Don't miss out on the reimbursements you're entitled to.
  7. File for Unemployment Benefits: There’s no shame in claiming unemployment benefits. Do so promptly after your layoff, to secure your entitlements. Contact HR if you don't receive the necessary information. Prepare the required documents, including a driver's license, rent W-2, SSN, and a checking account number. Regularly report earnings and job applications to maintain your benefit eligibility. Remember, unemployment benefits are taxable income. You have the option of taking the taxes out when you’re receiving the benefit or paying later when you file for the year. 
  8. Update Your Budget: Adjusting to reduced income requires financial planning. Evaluate recurring expenses and decide what's necessary. Scrutinize credit card statements to identify any hidden fees or recurring subscriptions you can cancel.
  9. Address Financial Leaks: Identify potential hidden costs, like banking service fees, overdraft fees, or fees for not having a regular direct deposit. Credit card points may expire. Switch to no fee option, or try moving them into a travel rewards account that doesn't expire.
  10. Consider Bigger Changes: Evaluate significant lifestyle adjustments, such as getting a roommate or moving to a more affordable place. Though they might involve initial costs, they can lead to long-term savings.

These will be challenging times, rife with stress and anxiety.

Finding myself in this position for the first time has been challenging. However, it’s allowed me time to reflect on what I really want to do and an unintended force to take action.  

As much as it’s hard to rethink your life on a dime, know that you’re not the first. Countless others have been impacted. Reach out to your friends, and fellow laid-off peers - having a support group can be vital. They might even pave the way to your next opportunity.

Keep in mind, these changes are temporary, and your resilience is your greatest asset.

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