Are you recently out of a job? If so, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are available to workers who are laid off, quit for qualifying reasons, or are fired for some reason other than misconduct. Although the general structure of unemployment compensation is similar across the country, each state has its own rules on eligibility, benefit amounts, duration, and more. This article explains how unemployment works in New Mexico.
In nearly all states, you must meet the following three requirements in order to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits:
Nearly all states use a one-year “base period” to determine whether you’ve earned enough in wages to qualify for unemployment. The Department of Workforce Solutions, the agency that administers unemployment benefits in New Mexico, will look to the five quarters immediately preceding your claim. The first four out of those five quarters is considered the base period. For example, if you file your claim in October of 2019, your base period will be July of 2018 to June of 2019. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period.)
To meet the earnings requirement in New Mexico, both of the following must be true:
One of the most disputed issues between employers and employees is whether the employee is out of work through no fault of his or her own. Like most other states, New Mexico treats layoffs, terminations, and voluntary resignations differently.
The simplest scenario is where the employee was laid off due to lack of work or other business reasons that have nothing to do with the employee’s quality of work. If your company was downsizing and laid you off, you will still be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Being terminated is not an absolute bar to recovering unemployment. If you were fired because you simply lacked the skills for the job or weren’t a good fit personality-wise, you won’t be barred from receiving benefits. In general, you will be disqualified only if you were fired for misconduct. In New Mexico, misconduct is behavior that shows a willful disregard for the employer’s interests. For example, intentional violations of company rules, acts of insubordination, multiple unexcused absences, or showing up to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol may qualify as misconduct.
If you quit your job voluntarily, you won’t be eligible for unemployment unless you had “good cause” to quit. In New Mexico, you may have good cause if you quit your job due to pregnancy or loss of pregnancy, to escape domestic violence, or to relocate with a spouse who has received a new military assignment. You will also generally have good cause if you quit your job for a compelling work-related reason, such as dangerous working conditions that your employer refused to correct.
To be eligible for unemployment, you must be able and available to work. You must also be actively searching for work, which means making at least two job contacts each week. You must keep a log of the employers you’ve contacted, the dates you contacted them, and the result of your contacts. The Department may ask you to produce your work search records to verify your efforts. (See Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work? for more information on these requirements.)
You must accept an offer of suitable employment. Whether a job is suitable depends on several factors, including your work history and qualifications, as well as the availability of positions in your occupation. However, after receiving benefits for eight weeks, you will have to broaden your work search and decrease your salary expectations.
Unemployment benefits in New Mexico are 53.5% of your average weekly wage during your highest paid quarter of the base period. Unemployment benefits are subject to a minimum weekly benefit of $86 and a maximum weekly benefit of $461 (in 2020). Ordinarily benefits are available for a maximum of 26 weeks, although the CARES Act has extended this by an additional 13 weeks.
If you have dependent children under 18, you can also receive a weekly allowance of $25 per child, for up to two children. However, the dependent allowance cannot be more than 50% of your weekly benefit amount.
To apply for benefits, you must first register with the New Mexico Workforce Connection Center. Once you are registered, you will be able to file a claim for unemployment benefits online through the Unemployment Insurance Tax & Claims System. You can also use the Workforce Connection Center to find job postings, work on your resume, and keep a log of your work search activities.
You will be eligible for benefits as of the date that you file your claim, so it’s important to file as soon as you are out of work. Once you file your initial claim, you will need to continue to file a claim for each week for which you are requesting benefits.
Once the Department receives your claim, it will send you some documents, including a Monetary Determination indicating your potential weekly benefit amount if you meet all other eligibility requirements.
If your claim for unemployment is denied, you have 15 days to appeal the decision with the New Mexico Appeal Tribunal. When you receive your denial, it will include a form called a “Request for Hearing,” which must be submitted by mail or fax. Alternatively, you can file your appeal online through the Workforce Connection Center website.
Once the Appeal Tribunal receives your request, it will schedule a hearing. Hearings are typically conducted by telephone, but you will have an opportunity to submit documents beforehand. A hearing officer will hear from both sides and mail a written decision to the parties. If you disagree with the hearing officer’s decision, you can appeal to the Department’s Cabinet Secretary within 15 days. The Cabinet Secretary will review the decision or send it on to the Board of Review. If you disagree with that decision, you may appeal through the state court system within 30 days.
For more information on the New Mexico unemployment process, visit the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions and select “Unemployment Insurance.”