In a previous post, we discussed a situation where if a someone with a felony suddenly found themselves unemployed and out of work, would that technically constitute a violation of their probation –

You may find the answer to that question right here – BUT it behooves one to find employment sooner rather than later, as it does not help the cause. Your cause that is.

Well, another question generally asked within that same context would be if you qualify for unemployment benefits due to the fact that you have a felony?

Can you get unemployment benefits with a felony?

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, an individual (felon or not) must meet the general guidelines and requirements necessary in order to obtain those benefits: loss of work through no fault of your own.

So granted you meet the normal prerequisites and are deemed eligible, you may receive unemployment compensation regardless of a felony conviction.

It is important to note that all states generally differ in the criteria asked of an individual in order to qualify for assistance, but one thing universally agreed upon is that the application process can seem a bit harrowing and complicated in its’ design (and perhaps intention).

As a result, many are left feeling frustrated in the steps needed to attain benefits, with the overall sentiment that rejection is almost certain, especially when someone has been convicted of a felony.

Can someone with a felony receive reemployment assistance?

Based on the fact that I (a convicted felon) have experienced this situation firsthand, I can attest to it all (so you know I am not talking out of my ass). Yes, I have received unemployment insurance, aptly renamed reemployment assistance, having been part of a mass company layoff.

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I vividly recall the uneasy feeling I went through when I got the news that I would be out of a job soon enough, with the company I had worked so hard for now reorganizing and restructuring.

Making matters worse, it all took place during the holidays, as is normal during a corporate downsizing.

I knew for myself what was already an extremely stressful situation (contending with and overcoming the challenges of a criminal background) was suddenly about to get way worse.

A feeling of dread overcame me like never before, having to foresee the inevitable future of applying to jobs and explaining my background. Once again.

It was a shame too, as I worked so hard to build up good faith and trust with this employer. Now the problem is compounded by having to start from scratch, with the cherry on top of not knowing whether I would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

I mean, it is understandable right?

Things get taken away from you in this world without any explanation at times. I know you have to live with consequences for your actions, but seriously, when you are a convicted felon, the universe has a way of stripping you of so many opportunities you would normally be able to enjoy.

Or those opportunities are made so out of reach (purposely), that it creates animosity at the system.

The sad thing is that there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Not like us convicted felons are considered this protected class. And although it is not prejudice or discriminatory to do this, it is. Does that make sense?

Is there basis to deny someone benefits, due to the fact that they are a convicted felon?


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Felons must be ever mindful that if they are dismissed from an employment position for acting or participating in prohibited or illegal activity, violating company policies, or in doing anything that causes harm, with the end result of being fired, they are not eligible to receive unemployment. Furthermore, they may be prosecuted and face the possibility of incarceration.

What would disqualify someone from receiving unemployment benefits?

An employee (W2 wage earner) must not have quit or vacated their job as the loss of work was “through no fault of their own”. Any employee fired for misconduct, willful behavior, or any other similar offenses do not receive unemployment compensation. The employee must also meet certain wage earnings and length of employment time in order to qualify.

Immediately following my job loss, I had filed for unemployment. I recall my anxiety in the subsequent days as I awaited the decision on my eligibility.

Fortunately, I was approved without issue and my job loss turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as eventually I took on new and more prosperous endeavors. I guess we will just chalk it up that it happens for a reason then.

Be that as it may, I will say that the little cushion of financial support provided by the unemployment benefits made a huge difference in those hard times. As the saying goes, every little bit helps.

At the time, it allowed me to pay a few bills and keep afloat, but more importantly, it took some of the burden and stress off my shoulders during an already stressful situation. And believe me it was desperately needed.

You see, when you are out of work searching for a job, it’s tough. When you are out of work searching for a job and are a convicted felon, it is tougher.

And when you are out of work searching for a job, are a convicted felon who’s broke with bad credit, it is absolutely horrific.

So being able to still have benefits despite having a felony is a really big deal and critical lifeline.

I know from my situation; I was so overwhelmed because I was not prepared for this to happen. Then again, there is never really a good time for something like this to happen.

Still though, I guess the most frustrating thing was that I could not get a straight answer from anyone to help me answer this damn question – can a felon receive unemployment benefits?

Hopefully if you are reading this and find yourself in a similar situation – a felon who finds him/herself out of work – this post will put your mind at ease to know that you are applicable, and it is very much possible.

And to those thinking that this article was redundant, unnecessary, or that it is even common knowledge on who may or may not qualify for unemployment, in all due respect, I say screw you – because you do not get it.

Nor would you understand the stigma attached to felony convictions, and having to live with this monkey guerilla on your back if that situation does not apply.

So, the answer to sum this (can a felon receive unemployment benefits) all up is… YES, unemployment is open to anyone, including felons.

Being a felon should have no impact on whether or not you can be approved for unemployment benefits. The benefits are tied to your job, so it’s really a matter of the job that you have had as to whether or not you will be approved to receive the benefits.

Felon or not, if the criteria and normal requirements for eligibility are met, then YES, a felon can secure unemployment (reemployment) financial assistance*.

*That is unless they are a felon due to committing unemployment fraud. Then you are screwed.

Educate yourself on your situation, because nobody will do it for you. Stay well and out of trouble.

-The Educated Felon