Your unemployment benefits haven’t landed in your bank account, even though the payment should have arrived via direct deposit.
You’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration, as of Feb. 28, 2022, the most current data available, 45% of the 350,590 unemployed people whose claims were being processed hadn’t yet received their first unemployment check after 14 days.
That is somewhat typical. Quite a few states typically take about three weeks to send out that first unemployment check. Still, what if 21 days becomes 28 days or longer? On Feb. 28, 2022, 17.9% of unemployed people on day 70 of unemployment still hadn’t received their first unemployment check. On the bright side, 36% received their first check within seven days.
So what should you do if your first unemployment check hasn’t shown up or hit your bank account after a few weeks? You may have to play financial detective to find out what went wrong.
Reasons Your Unemployment Direct Deposit Is Late
Some of the following reasons are within your control, and some aren’t. Here are some possible explanations for why your unemployment direct deposit is late:
It’s not actually late. Some states take longer than others to issue checks. Your state department that handles unemployment will likely state on its website the typical processing time for unemployment claims. In Ohio, it typically takes 21 days to process that first unemployment check or direct deposit, although the state has been running about 28 days lately.
In Florida, it takes two to four weeks, while in Arizona it’s about 15 business days. Oregon’s employment department website says that it’ll be a minimum of four weeks.
So even if everything goes right, it can take a while for that first unemployment check or direct deposit to show up.
You filled out the questionnaire incorrectly.When you sign up for unemployment benefits, you have to answer questions, and most people these days do that online. You may have answered a question incorrectly.
That’s one important reason to call your local unemployment office and talk to someone who may be able to help you, so that the questionnaire is filled out correctly and you can get your unemployment benefits.
You didn’t provide all the required documentation.For example, you may have left off your driver’s license number or Social Security number. Failing to fill out online forms properly happens more than you might think. “Missing documents or information are common reasons that unemployment claims are delayed,” says Stacy Mastrolia, an associate professor of accounting at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Again, you may discover that you didn’t provide all of the required information if you make a phone call to your local unemployment office.
You are caught in a bottleneck.Mastrolia says due to the volume of unemployment claims, sometimes there are more issues with claims, which means more phone calls than usual are coming into government agencies.
“Not surprisingly, this has created an extensive backlog of applications that require human intervention to be resolved while, at the same time, it may take longer to manually verify the information on an application,” she says.
This creates a human bottleneck, she says. And, of course, government agencies can find themselves facing a labor shortage, which means fewer people to process claims. So even with unemployment being low, you might still find that it takes a while to get your unemployment benefits.
Systems are outdated.We live in 2022, but the payment system delivering your unemployment direct deposit may have been put together decades ago.
“Adding to the human bottlenecks, many states have admitted that their unemployment agencies have outdated systems that were not designed to handle the huge volume of new claims being processed,” Mastrolia says.
Michigan, in fact, is currently in the midst of spending $45 million to update its computer system for the state’s unemployment insurance program.
A technical snafu has occurred.For instance, a couple of years ago, a coding error caused the Ohio Job Insurance system to send direct deposit payments to banks without the recipients’ names.
Banks then had to figure out who the money was for — or simply rejected the payments — and some Ohioans didn’t receive their direct deposits promptly. You could be in a similar situation.
Your claim could be held up due to suspected fraud. It isn’t that the government suspects you of defrauding anyone, but your unemployment direct deposit may have gone to a con artist.
That was a big problem during the pandemic with states seeing fraudulent unemployment claims skyrocket, but it still persists. In February, Pennsylvania Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a Senate appropriations committee hearing that fraud has slowed payments (she also told the committee that the department had staffing problems).
“We are under attack by very sophisticated foreign fraudsters who are looking to take advantage of Pennsylvania’s (unemployment compensation) system and also the people who live in Pennsylvania,” Berrier said.
On March 1, Maryland Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson wrote a letter to Maryland’s congressional delegation that stated in part, “The schemes our fraud experts continue to uncover are sophisticated, ever-changing and increasingly brazen. While we appreciate the federal funding we have received to fight fraud, it unfortunately pales in comparison to the scale of the current challenge. … Additional resources and merit staff flexibility are desperately needed in order to win this battle.”
Piling onto this fraud problem is that new federal requirements designed to prevent fraud have, for many states, slowed down the unemployment payment process. So your state may be protecting you from being defrauded out of your unemployment check, but you’re still not quickly getting your money.
[READ: 5 Signs of an IRS Tax Scam.]
What to Do if Your Unemployment Check or Direct Deposit Is Late
First, if you’re getting an unemployment check, you should arrange direct deposit to your bank account instead. While not everyone gets their direct deposits promptly, it’s generally a quicker option than a check’s journey through the postal system.
Next, make a phone call to your state unemployment agency. (Definitely don’t wait 70 days.) Tell the representative that you’re concerned that your unemployment insurance payment hasn’t shown up. If there is a problem, the faster your state learns about it, the faster it can fix it.
You should probably also call your bank, says Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group, a financial planning firm in Brighton, Michigan, who has had several clients in the past experience delays or disruptions in their unemployment direct deposits.
Foguth says that even if your state unemployment agency fixes the issue and assures you that your check is coming, you’ll want to monitor your bank accountand make sure no automatic payments have withdrawn money that you don’t have, due to your unemployment direct deposit not arriving.
If that’s the case, don’t be bashful. “Reach out to your financial institution and explain your scenario,” Foguth says.
If you have been slammed with fees, Foguth encourages people to ask if the bank will waive the fees.
It’s regrettable, but if your unemployment check or direct deposit hasn’t arrived, looking for ways to make it come faster may feel like a full-time job.
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Unemployment: What to Do if Your Direct Deposit Is Late originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 04/06/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.