Author Topic: unemployment  (Read 8682 times)

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« on: Oct 06, 2004, 09:56 pm »
Okay -

Unemployment insurance.  Often there's a month, maybe two, in between the end of one contract and the start of the next.  We all pay in to it when we work - at the end of the contract, can we collect?

How does this work for theatre artists?  Is it common to collect unemployment?  How long can you collect?  How do you go about getting the money?

Never thought about this before.
Heath Belden

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« Reply #1 on: Oct 07, 2004, 03:18 pm »
Yes, you can collect least I did for a while when I first joined Equity and was struggling for jobs.  When you first call up the unemployment agency, you'll have to give them all the vital information for your last 18 months of work (Place of work, your title there, address, contact person, day you started and ended, and reason job ended - for theatre usually the show closed, which they call "lack of work").  Even the one-day gigs.  They will not like to type all this information, so starting off joking with them always helps.  Also, if you have more than one state, you have to do it through your home state...but a special division.  (Or there was the one lovely time when I'd worked all but one job in another state, which wasn't my home state, and they couldn't find any record of I ultimately got unemployment insurance through Connecticut while I was living in Ohio).  

Anyway you then have to keep track of all the jobs you are applying for while on unemployment.  This, to me, is the tricky part....because you can't always FIND a job to apply for every week, or maybe two in one week (try to send one on Friday, and one on Monday, for example if that's the case.  AND...if you should ever be offered a job that you don't want, I'm not sure where that leaves you with unemployment...maybe it gets cut off.  Different states do it different ways as far as reporting each week.  Some you phone in, some you mail in.

Your check amount is based off how much you were making before unemployed (a percentage of that, I believe, but quite low), and in some states they don't take the taxes out until you're hit with it April 15th.  And you collect until you've used up your "stock" based on how much you had worked before the unemployment.

Hope this helps - it's only what I've experienced.  But I did collect 6 months of unemployment one year all told, while I picked up 2 to 4-week gigs building up my resume.



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« Reply #2 on: Oct 07, 2004, 06:31 pm »
The job search requirements in each state are different. In the state of Washington, where I reside, you have to make three job contacts a week. Unfortunately this means that sometimes I apply for jobs that I am either too qualified for, or not qualified enough. Also, I sometimes apply for jobs knowing that I am not really available. This seems to be the reality of collecting unemployment. If I am offered a job that I either don't want or am unavailable for, I can turn it down without affecting my unemployment as long as I am not available because I have another job, or the pay scale is much lower than what I am currently accustom too (i.e. I don't have to accept a $200 a week job if I usually get paid $850).

Both my husband (he's an IA stagehand) and I collect between jobs. On average, that works out to be between 10-16 weeks a year. If we didn't, we wouldn't survive. I collect even if the layoff is two weeks. The employer pays into it on our behalf, so I don't feel bad about taken advantage of those benefits.


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My unemployment history
« Reply #3 on: Oct 07, 2004, 07:19 pm »
When I have applied, and I always do if I am unemployed for more then two weeks, it has always been very smooth, and it does very DRASTICALLY from state to state.

1) The number of contacts varies (2-4 is common).  I keep track of resumes I send out, phone calls I make, networking.

2) Some states for a certain amount of time you can limit your search to jobs in your field, but after a certain amount of time you need to open your search.  (Such as stage management for the first 16 weeks, and then you better apply at temp agencies, Starbucks, etc.)

3) Sometimes you are given the ability to limit by salary (I am normally paid $1,000 a week, I don't have to look for $400 a week jobs).

4) As far as out of state, I actually ran into this where an out of state job contact I made turned into a job offer - which paid more then unemployement but less then my current pay.  I spoke to unemployment, and since it was a "terminal job", that is had an ending date, I did not to relocated (I didn't fill them in on the Equity rules regarding moving.)

5) And some states, god bless them, state if you have a return to work date, you do not need to apply for jobs.  So, you know when you next contract is . . . you don't need to apply, you can just coast through 5 weeks off or a summer off.  Texas was nice like that.

And Finally . . . be prepared . . . they have no idea what we do for a living sometimes, unless you are applying out of New York.  Be patient with them.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.


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An Unemployment Story
« Reply #4 on: Apr 20, 2005, 06:49 pm »
In part as a response to this thread, I recently went to my unemployment office when my part-time day job began to wane and I found myself still in between gigs after a few months.  This is something I should have done long, long ago, but I just finally got around to it.

I ran into one small snag, and thought it might be useful to post it here with the other pieces of advice.  I also have learned a bit already, and have a bit of advice of my own that I wish had been given to me.

I am of course going off of my current state's rules (Illinois), and this may not be the same everywhere - but i think it is important to ask.

First of all, you may be able to collect partially even though you're working part-time.  I had avoided unemployment b/c i had a part-time day job outside of my theatre jobs, and though that exempted me from receiving benefits.  However, because unemployment is based on your past work history, if you are used to working 2-3 jobs and one ends (your show closes), unemployment may still be able to supplement your income when you are not working as much as you are used to.  To put it in simpler terms: if you usually make $100/week at office job part-time AND $200/week at theatre gig full-time; and suddenly that full-time $200/week gig is gone, that's loss of work that unemployment might be able to compensate. As long as office job doesn't give you a raise and bring you up to full-time status, you may still be eligible to collect as part-time b/c you are working below your means.  Most jobs would be happy to give you more hours and more work, but since that wasn't the case with me (there just wasn't enough work to go around), I am able to collect unemploymant as long as I remain part-time and continue to make less than I am used to.

Although this is pretty great, it's also where I ran into a little snag called "independent contractor."  There is a big difference between "independent contractor" and "employee," so if you do any 1099 (fee) work, make sure you specify that in your claim.  Your claim should be based on the last job you held as an "employee" only - this is when there are many federal and state forms to fill out and taxes are taken out of your paycheck.  If you do both kinds of work, like I do, make sure the office is very clear on the distinction.  I found out the importance of this distiction the hard way, and nearly got my part-time job into trouble...

Ultimately, what I discovered in going through this process, is that I should have done it long ago.  Once you have filed for unemployment once, it is easy to re-apply (in the same state at least).  If I had started when my first AEA gig ended and I was between gigs with no work, the transition would have been much smoother, and I could have been collecting on and off for quite some time now.  If you think you might be eligible, apply and see.  Once you learn how it's done in your area, you can re-apply when you need to.  Unemployment (for us, at least) is inevitable, after all.


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Re: unemployment
« Reply #5 on: Apr 23, 2005, 01:22 am »
Quote from: "hbelden"
Okay -

Unemployment insurance.  Often there's a month, maybe two, in between the end of one contract and the start of the next.  We all pay in to it when we work - at the end of the contract, can we collect?

How does this work for theatre artists?  Is it common to collect unemployment?  How long can you collect?  How do you go about getting the money?

Never thought about this before.

Hey there!  

In CA, you can file a claim for unemployment online at
Payments are based on a percentage of how much you made over the previous year, broken down into quarters, paid on the quarter you made the most.  A claim stays alive for a certian amount of time...maybe ten months?  Once you file a claim, there's a one week waiting period with no money, after that you fill out a bi-weekly claim form.  If you work part time (or one day - their weeks are sunday-sat so closing day of a show counts towards the next week) the payout is reduced.  

Keep in mind that one week unpaid waiting period- file by Friday the week your contract ends.

If you start a claim, file for five week, then go on contract for 2 months,  you can re-instate the claim if you have a few weeks off before then next show or while looking for the next one with no waiting period.

Once that claim ends...if you've worked in the previous year you can open a new claim.  

The only down side to the online application is that it requires you to fill in  a union number.  I don't know AEA's "number" but using my own membership number worked a few months ago.

You are also required to register a resume and such with job-finding agencies.  All can be done onlilne.  Time to spruce up that civilian resume :)


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