Washington D.C. Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Learn more about unemployment benefits in the District of Columbia, eligibility requirements, how to apply, how benefits are calculated, and filing an appeal.

Although Washington D.C. may not be a state, it provides unemployment insurance (UI) for workers in the district who have lost their job for reasons for which they are not to blame. The Department of Enterprise Services (DES) runs all operations of the district's Unemployment Compensation Program, including the administration of unemployment insurance. Washington D.C.'s UI laws function much like other states do despite a large number of federal workers. Read on to learn if you're eligible for benefits, how to apply and how D.C. calculates benefits payouts.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Washington D.C.?

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in Washington D.C., you must have earned a sufficient amount of wages over the course of at least 12 months from an employer covered by the district's unemployment insurance laws. The DES will conduct inquiries to see what requirements you meet and, therefore, what benefits you may qualify for.

Monetary Requirements and the Base Period

The 12-month period the DES will be paying particularly close attention to after you file your claim is called the base period. The base period is the first 4 of the last 5 quarters you worked prior to filing your claim. 

The DES will be looking for the following qualifications:

  1. You earned wages in at least 2 of the 4 quarters of your base period
  2. You made at least $1300 in 1 quarter
  3. You made a bare minimum total of $1950 throughout the entire base period 
  4. In total, your base period wages must equal 1.5 times the total wages you earned from your highest quarter — or, at the very least, they must be within $70 of that amount. 

If you cannot qualify for benefits using the standard base period, the DES may use an alternate base period with different requirements to help you get approved. However, there are also non-monetary requirements you must meet in order to be considered eligible.

Non-Monetary Requirements


  • As stated previously, your unemployment must be through no direct fault of your own. Your own actions or decisions cannot be the reason you are out of work. Workers who are laid off due to unreasonable work location changes or closures are far more likely to be approved for benefits. Those who are dismissed for quality reasons or quit are less likely to qualify. 
  • You must be available and physically able to work. When filing your claim, you must be physically and mentally able to accept any offer of suitable employment that may come your way. (The term "suitable employment" here meaning a job where you're making a salary relatively close to what you were making previously. However, the longer you remain unemployed, the more the DES may expect you to accept work that isn't completely "suitable.")
  • You must be either a U.S. citizen or authorized to work in the U.S. You must either be able to prove your citizenship or present an alien registration card. 

It's worth noting that you may still be able to file if certain external situations directly caused your resignation or termination from work. The DES has ruled that if you leave work because of any one of the following circumstances, you may still be eligible to receive benefits:

  • You are a victim of domestic violence — you must present written evidence
  • Your current spouse or partner is a former victim and you relocated with them
  • You are caring for a family member who is sick or disabled

Other Items You'll Want to Have Before Filing


  • Social Security number
  • The names, addresses and contact information of your most recent employers as well as the dates you spent employed by them.
  • Any information regarding severance pay you have or will receive.

Periodic Requirements for Maintaining Eligibility

The DES requires that you maintain the initial eligibility requirements you met in order to qualify for benefits as you continue to apply for them on a weekly basis. For these continuing claims, you'll have to be able to answer specific questions to certify that you are still eligible for benefit payments each week. These questions include information such as how often you've been looking for work and if you have earned any new wages or refused any offers of employment.

You must report new wages for any employment you find, even if it's only part-time. Additionally, you must report them the week you earn them — not the week you receive the paycheck for those hours. You may still qualify for benefits with part-time work even after receiving your initial claim. 

How Do You Apply for Washington D.C. Unemployment Benefits?

There are three methods of filing a claim for unemployment benefits.

  1. Visiting dcnetworks.org is typically the quickest option for applying for UI and processing your claim. 
  2. By phone at (202) 724-7000. 
  3. In person at your local District of Columbia American Job Center.

How Washington D.C. Calculates Benefits

Once you've filed your claim, you'll soon receive a Notice of Monetary Determination from the DES. This will tell you whether or not you met the minimum wage requirements, as well as your potential weekly and total benefit payment amounts.

Your base period wages directly determine how much you're eligible to make a week in benefits. This number is usually referred to as a WBA (weekly benefit amount). The DES uses wages from the highest-earning quarter of your base period to determine this. The maximum WBA you can receive in D.C. is $425, and the maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits is 26.

You cannot receive more than one benefit package per year. However, during years of high unemployment, the district (or sometimes even the federal government) may authorize more than 26 weeks of benefits. 

What Happens if Unemployment Claims in Washington D.C. Are Denied?

The most common reason for denial of benefits is the DES determining you didn't earn enough during your base period to qualify you for unemployment insurance. If you feel that the DES's decision isn't justified, you can request what is called a redetermination, and if the DES still determines you don't meet the financial requirements to receive benefits, you can file an appeal. You will have 15 days from the date you receive your Notice of Determination from the DES to file your appeal with the Office of Administrative Hearings. 

However, other are non-monetary issues that may hinder your approval as well, such as:

  • Failing to accurately report wages
  • Being physically unable or unavailable to look for new work
  • Refusing a suitable job offer
  • Failing to report to a DES official when asked
Read More
Hand With Pen And Paper
If you're unemployed through no fault of your own, you might qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment ...
Woman and adult daughter embrace and smile while sitting on home front steps
You may be entitled to North Carolina unemployment benefits if you meet the state's eligibility criteria. ...
Smiling grandfather with young grandchildren
The Oklahoma unemployment insurance program assists unemployed residents to re-enter the workforce. ...