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Originally Published: Oct 26, 2020
Originally Published: Oct 26, 2020 Last Updated: Oct 28, 2020 7 min read
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Imagine you and a friend live and work a 15-minute drive apart in Dubuque, Iowa and Dickeyville, Wisconsin, and both lose your jobs when your employers close for good. You pay the same rent and make comparable salaries that allow you to draw the maximum unemployment benefits in your state.

Iowa pays you enough to cover the basics, with a little left over for other expenses. Your Wisconsin friend, by contrast, receives about $950 less a month from his state’s unemployment program, forcing him to turn to family and food banks to make pay his rent and keep food on the table.

This scenario plays out daily across the country thanks to the crazy quilt that is unemployment insurance in America. Each state runs its own unemployment insurance program, with “the federal government taking only an advisory role,” says Andrew Stettner, Senior Fellow with The Century Foundation.