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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Historical Information on Unemployment Benefits Availability

The following information pertains to unemployment benefit extensions that were in effect BEFORE the agreement expired in late December 2013.  All CURRENT information is listed HERE; the following is provided only for historical reference:

Important Note:  ALL extended unemployment benefits expired the week ending December 28, 2013.  Unless Congress acts to extend this program, there will be NO federal extended unemployment benefits available after December 28, 2013.  The recent budget deal that was negotiated to avoid a government shutdown in January did NOT include an extension of unemployment benefits.  The Senate, controlled by Democrats, has introduced a bill extend unemployment benefits, but it is unclear if such a bill will even be introduced in the Republican-controlled House, much less be passed by the House.  As of this point in time, (January 7, 2014), there are about 1.4 million people on extended benefits who will not be able to certify for weeks of unemployment after December 28, 2013.  I'll repeat that:  After December 28, 2013, there will be NO TIERS of unemployment extensions available ANYWHERE.  (Earlier I mistakenly said that no checks will be available after December 28th; however, most people who CERTIFY for the week ending December 28th will get a check in the first week of January.  That will be their last check.)  If you are concerned about this, you need to start calling your Senators and Representatives, particularly the Republican Representatives NOW.  
Update December 17, 2013:   The map and list of weeks by state below (from CBPP) has been updated and includes all recent updates effective in December.  This map shows weeks of extended benefits available before ALL extensions expired December 28th.  This map shows what would be in effect if extensions did not expire December 28th.      
Update November 25, 2013:   The map and list of weeks by state below (from CBPP) has been updated, but it does NOT include upcoming changes for Colorado and Florida (effective December 14, 2013) nor upcoming changes for Alaska, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Washington (effective December 8,2013).  Please check HERE for details for these states and territories!    
Update November 2013:   The map and list of weeks by state below (from CBPP) has been updated, and it includes upcoming changes for Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Missouri effective October 6, 2013.   The list of weeks below DOES include upcoming changes for the Virgin Islands effective November 10, 2013.   Please check HERE for details for these states and territories!   
Update August 28, 2013:   The map and list of weeks by state below (from CBPP) has been updated and includes changes for Mississippi and Wisconsin effective September 14, 2013.  Please check HERE for details for these states! 
Update July 24, 2013:  The map and list of weeks by state from CBPP has been updated and includes changes for California, Rhode Island, Washington, and Alaska.  Please check HERE for details for these states!
Update July 14, 2013: In response to a reader's question, you collect from the state in which you were employed, not in the state in which you reside.  If you worked in two states, contact the agency in the state in which you last worked for help.

Update May 28, 2013:  In answer to a question, nobody in any state still gets 99 weeks of unemployment insurance compensation.  See state by state table below.  "Additional weeks of benefits" table updated to include only current status.  State by state table added.  Also, Extended Benefits are NOT available in any state now.
Update April 2, 2013:  Because of the sequester, the AMOUNT of weekly unemployment compensation that many of the unemployed get will decrease.  CLICK HERE for a recent article about these decreases. 
Update January 2, 2013 (1 a.m.): The House has approved the Senate "fiscal cliff" deal and it has been signed into law. It includes CONTINUING the unemployment benefit extensions that were enacted last February and are described below. It does NOT include any MORE extensions. An explanation:  If, according to the chart below, people in your state were most recently entitled to 73 weeks of unemployment benefits and you have used up your 73 weeks, you will not get any more weeks. But if you have only used up 60 weeks, then you will still get the last 13 (unless the unemployment rate in your state drops below the trigger). If you exhausted your weeks of unemployment benefits in 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2012,  there are NO extra weeks for you. Please check THIS LINK for more details as they are available. 
Please note that current extensions are tied into the unemployment rate for each state and, as the unemployment rate is going down in most states, many beneficiaries will lose some or all of their benefits even though extensions have been approved through 2013.  Please check the chart below. 

The unemployment provisions passed in February 2012 and renewed in the January 2013 Fiscal Cliff deal are complicated, and beneficiaries are urged to contact their state labor or unemployment agencies to find out how these changes will affect them. Please note that some of the questions about job search requirements, drug testing, weeks of benefits, termination of EB, etc., have been addressed below. Continue reading if you are interested in information on those topics.


Maximum Duration of Unemployment Insurance by State
Note:  
Changes to availability in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Washington are listed on the following map.  Details ARE available at THIS LINK:  Changes in State Eligibility as of December 2013. 
Changes to availability in Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and the Virgin Islands are listed on the following map.  Details ARE available at THIS LINK:  Changes in State Eligibility as of October & November 2013. 
Changes to availability in Wisconsin and MIssissippi ARE listed on the following map.  Details ARE available at THIS LINK:  Changes in State Eligibility as of September 2013.
Changes to availability in California, Rhode Island, Washington, and Alaska ARE listed on the following map.  Details ARE available at THIS LINK:  Changes in State Eligibility as of August 2013.  
Recent changes to availability in Maine, New Jersey, Louisiana, West Virginia, the Virgin Islands and North Carolina ARE listed on the following map.  Details ARE available at THIS LINK:  Changes in State Eligibility as of July 2013.  Details for North Carolina are available HERE.
Changes to availability in Alaska, Ohio, and Wisconsin  as of May are listed on the following map.  Details ARE available at THIS LINK:  Changes in State Eligibility (May 4th).  
Changes to availability in Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, and Louisiana are listed on the following map as of Monday, April 22nd.  Details ARE also available at THIS LINK:   Changes in State Eligibility as Of April 19th.  


For reference and comparison, below is a 
map with maximum weeks of unemployment that were available as of December 15, 2013, BEFORE all extended benefits expired.) from the Center on Budget and Priority Policies.   








                    





The following information pertains to unemployment extensions that were in effect BEFORE the agreement expired in late December 2013.  All CURRENT information is listed at the top of the page; the following is provided only for historical reference:

The Details of the Extension That Has Expired:

Important Note:  ALL extended unemployment benefits expired the the week ending December 28, 2013.  Unless Congress acts to extend this program, which seems unlikely due to Republican control of the House of Representatives, there will be NO federal extended unemployment benefits available for weeks ending after December 28, 2013. There are still about 1.3 million people depending on extended unemployment benefits.   (Please read the update at the top of this article.)


The Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement on extending the payroll tax cuts as well as extending unemployment benefits for the rest of the year of 2012.  The extension was passed by both the House and the Senate this morning, Friday, February 17th, 2012.  President Obama has said he will sign it as soon as he gets back to Washington, D.C.  (*Update 1/2/2013: The recent fiscal cliff agreement does NOT provide for the extension of the payroll tax cuts, but it does provide for an extension of unemployment benefits for the rest of 2013 for those who have not yet exhausted their unemployment benefits.)   

If you are currently collecting unemployment insurance benefits and you are wondering how this agreement will affect you, please bookmark this page and check back throughout the coming weeks.  Basically, weeks of benefits declined during 2012, depending on how many weeks you had already received and what the unemployment rate was in your state.  99 weeks of benefits were available to people in high (over 8.5%) unemployment states until the end of May 2012.  89 weeks were available to people in states with unemployment lower than 8.5% in Spring 2012.  (*Update 4/26/2013:  Extended benefits will no longer be available in Alaska OR ANY STATE after May 4th; therefore, the highest number of unemployment weeks available will be 73 weeks to states with 9% or higher unemployment rates.  The Fiscal Cliff deal did NOT change this.)  

Here's a summary of the conference compromise that was passed in February 2012 (which has been extended in the 2013 Fiscal Cliff agreement) with a chart showing the number of weeks of unemployment compensation:

Background
The agreement would guarantee continued Federal unemployment benefits through the remainder of this year, while gradually reducing the number of weeks in the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program through a 3-step process.  
Throughout this period, the Extended Benefits (EB) program, which provides a maximum of 20 weeks of benefits after an individual exhausts EUC would continue under current law, phasing out as a state’s unemployment rates improves in comparison to three years ago. 
From March 2012 through May 2012 – The level of unemployment insurance benefits continue equal to an extension of current law, and high unemployment states losing benefits under the EB program would get an extra 10 weeks.  Between 89 and 99 weeks of total unemployment benefits available in high unemployment states between the EUC program and the EB program. 
From June 2012 through August 2012 – The unemployment rate requirement would increase in three of the four tiers of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program.  Up to 79 weeks of total benefits available in high unemployment States with a few states continuing to receive additional EB weeks as under current law. 
From September 2012 through December 2012 (Apparently updated to be in effect until December 2013) – EUC benefits would be reduced by 6 weeks in all States.  This would cap total unemployment benefits at 73 weeks in SOME states when Extended Benefits are not available.  (This paragraph was updated May 2013)  



NELP's (National Employment Law Project's) take in 2012:

."While the agreement is certainly not all we would want and unemployed workers need, it is a relief that Congress appears poised to act before members head off for their vacations next week. 
The deal is far from perfect, but if enacted, it will prevent the cut-off of benefits for millions of jobless workers in the coming months. The unemployment insurance agreement features a graduated approach that phases in a reduction of weeks
and avoids the kinds of shocks to the economy that would occur were there an abrupt reduction. The compromise also shows sensitivity to high-unemployment states by preserving the greatest number of weeks for jobless workers in the hardest hit states. The compromise largely avoids the worst features of the proposals contained in the original House bill that aimed to stigmatize and demonize long-term unemployed workers, like the GED requirement. Those provisions that allow states to experiment with limited program changes, like drug testing and wage subsidies, will have to be closely monitored to ensure that they do not undermine strong labor standards or the core principles of the unemployment insurance program. No one has been hit as hard or suffered as much as the long-term unemployed, and they need the support of unemployment insurance in order to provide for their families and continue their job search until the economy significantly improves...

For the moment, Congress should approve this bill and turn to aggressive strategies to put the long-term unemployed back to work: that means effective reemployment policies; more support for education, training, job creation and job placement services; and more investments to rebuild America’s infrastructure and create a 21st century economy founded on good jobs.
(Update from NELP after Fiscal Cliff deal in January 2013:)
America’s unemployed workers have reason to celebrate Congress’s bi-partisan approval of the fiscal cliff compromise that extends the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program through 2013. The deal preserves a vital lifeline of support for two million long-term unemployed workers who faced an abrupt cut-off of all jobless aid this week, and for millions more who will run out of state unemployment insurance during 2013. Congress rightly treated the extension of  unemployment insurance as an emergency measure, not requiring its cost to be offset.   
Renewal of the EUC program through 2013 keeps in place the strongest program of unemployment insurance in the nation’s history, an appropriate response to the Great Recession and slow recovery that continue to generate too few jobs for all who want and need to work. Building and maintaining this program would not have been possible without strong leadership in the Senate and House, especially by Senator Jack Reed and Representative Sander Levin, and the unwavering commitment of President Obama since day one of his presidency. We commend the President and congressional leaders for their dedication to preserving this crucial program.

MORE HERE

From CNN through Open Congress: (published February 2013)


UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
  • Extends current levels and length of unemployment benefits through May. After that maximum lengths of benefits decrease in steps.
  • On Sept. 1, max. unemployment benefits would fall to 73 weeks in the highest unemployment states. (GOP source says that’s 9% unemployment or more.)
  • On Sept. 1, unemployment benefits would drop to 63 weeks in states with average unemployment.
  • Drug testing: Republicans say the deal would allow states to drug test unemployment beneficiaries if a) they are unemployed because of a failed or refused drug test or b) if they are applying for jobs that require drug testing.
  • Long-term unemployed: would have to go through a “reemployment assessment”, according to Republicans. This would assess what skills and services they need to be hired and require that they participate in recommended programs.
  • Job search requirements: Republicans say the deal would issue a first set of “national job search requirements” for those receiving unemployment benefits. We are waiting for details on what that means.
Are there new national job search requirements for unemployment?

As I read through the law, I could not see anything that is different from the state requirements here in Illinois.  I do not know if these requirements would be new in other states.   Here's the new law:

"SEC. 2141. IMPROVED WORK SEARCH FOR THE LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED. 
13 (a) IN GENERAL.—Section 4001(b) of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110–252; 15 26 U.S.C. 3304 note) is amended:
 (1) by striking ‘‘and’’ at the end of paragraph 17 (2);  (2) by striking the period at the end of paragraph (3) and inserting ‘‘; and’’; and (3) by adding at the end the following: ‘‘(4) are able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work.’’. 
 (b) ACTIVELY SEEKING WORK.—Section 4001 of such Act is amended by adding at the end the following:  ‘‘(h) ACTIVELY SEEKING WORK.—
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of subsection (b)(4), the term ‘actively seeking work’ means, with respect to any individual, that such individual—
 ‘‘(A) is registered for employment services in such a manner and to such extent as prescribed by the State agency; 
(B) has engaged in an active search for employment that is appropriate in light of the employment available in the labor market, the individual’s skills and capabilities, and includes a number of employer contacts that is consistent with the standards communicated to the individual by the State;
(C) has maintained a record of such work search, including employers contacted, method of contact, and date contacted; and 
(D) when requested, has provided such work search record to the State agency. 
(2) RANDOM AUDITING.—The Secretary shall establish for each State a minimum number of claims for which work search records must be audited on a random basis in any given week.’’
As I wrote above, I see nothing new in this law for my state, Illinois, but I don't know about other states. 


How long is average unemployment in July 2013? 

(Updated for July on August 28, 2013)  

Average unemployment (NOT average weeks of benefits received) in July 2013 has dropped to 36.6 weeks (It was 36.5 weeks in April.).  The median (half more, half less) is much less at 15.7 weeks (down from 17.5 weeks in April).

1.3 million people have been unemployed between 27 (a half year) and 51 weeks, down from 1.4 million in April 2013 and down from 1.6 million a year ago. 3.0 million people have been unemployed (actively looking for work) for at least 52 weeks, down from 3.1 million in April 2013 and down from 3.6 million a year ago.

The number of people unemployed is decreasing slowly; the median length of unemployment is decreasing slowly; but we still have a large group of very long-term unemployed.  Among these 4.2 million people unemployed over 27 weeks are the 1.5 million people who are now depending on federal extended unemployment benefits.  About 36% of the long-term unemployed are still collecting benefits; but about 64% of the long-term unemployed are NOT eligible for any benefits. 



What About Drug Testing?  Am I Going to Have to be Drug Tested to Continue Getting Unemployment Benefits?




Do People in Extended Benefits get an extra 10 weeks?  (Updated 1/2/2013:  This section discusses Extended Benefits as of early 2012.  Note that Extended Benefits are no longer available anywhere as of May 4, 2013.) 


It really is confusing, no doubt about it.  O.K., the most that anyone can get with state Extended Benefits is 20 weeks.  Now, some states, such as Maine and Michigan, have already triggered off of Extended Benefits due to the strange way that EB eligibility is calculated which involves a "look back" clause, comparing the current unemployment rate to the unemployment rate 3 years ago.  In other words, unemployment has to be some percentage worse than it was three years ago for a state to get Extended Benefits.  And three years ago, the unemployment rate was on the way up and reached a high point nationally in October 2009.  So all states will probably trigger off of EB sometime during 2012.  (As of May 4, 2013, NO STATE will be eligible for Extended Benefits. )  

So that millions of people aren't dumped off of unemployment at one time, a provision was placed in the new law that allows people in states with still high unemployment rates who have triggered off of EB to get ten extra weeks which will be tacked on to Tier IV.  It appears that people in Michigan will get that ten extra weeks, as their unemployment rate is still high; whereas, people in Maine will not get the ten extra weeks.  It appears that if you were not eligible for any more weeks in Michigan, as you had exhausted the 6 Tier IV weeks, you will get these ten extra weeks that are tacked onto Tier IV.  It seems, however, that you may not get those extra ten weeks until March.  If you move to Tier IV in March through May and your state has triggered off of EB, you will get 16 weeks of Tier IV instead of 6.  It is unclear if you get to keep any unused 16 weeks of Tier IV after June 1st.  So if you live in Michigan and have exhausted all benefits, don't celebrate yet; wait until there is more definite information.     

But it does seem that if you are in Michigan and have exhausted your Tiers and are not getting EB, you just MAY get those ten extra weeks.  Yes, it is confusing.  What is unclear is whether or not people who started EB, then had their state trigger off before they finished EB, will get the extra 10 weeks on Tier IV, as they have officially "exhausted" Tier IV.         

Representative Sandy Levin of Michigan has some information at his page about what this extension means for the people of Michigan.
*Update 5/1/2012  More States Trigger off of EB Benefits
Due to the drop in the unemployment rate for many states and the strange "look back" way that Extended Benefits are determined, a number of states, some of them large, will trigger off of EB at the end of this week.  States included are  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  People who have not yet moved to Extended Benefits MAY be eligible for an extra ten weeks of Tier IV compensation.  The current unemployment extension scheme is really very complicated, and it is best to contact your state unemployment agency for information.    More HERE.
*Update 11/25/2012 Only New York Still Eligible for State Extended Benefits (EB)
All other states, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, are NO LONGER eligible for state Extended Benefits (EB).  More HERE. 
*Update 1/2/2013:  NO state is eligible for state Extended Benefits.  New York has also triggered off.   More HERE.
*Update 2/12/2013:  Alaska has triggered back on to Extended Benefits.   More HERE.
*Update 4/26/2013:  Alaska will trigger off of Extended Benefits as of May 4, 2013.   More HERE.

Earlier Updates:
Update June 27, 2013:  The map and list of available weeks of unemployment compensation has been updated and includes changes for Maine, New Jersey, West Virginia, Louisiana, and the Virgin Islands.  Please check HERE for details for these states and territories!

Update April 26, 2013:  Changes in state eligibility have been announced for the following states:  Alaska, Ohio, Wisconsin.  Please check HERE for details!    
Update April 19, 2013:  Changes in state eligibility have been announced for the following states:  Delaware, Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan.  Please click HERE for details!  
Update April 2, 2013:  Because of the sequester, the AMOUNT of weekly unemployment compensation that many of the unemployed get will decrease.  CLICK HERE for a recent article about these decreases. 
Update January 2, 2013 (1 a.m.): The House has approved the Senate "fiscal cliff" deal and it has been signed into law. It includes CONTINUING the unemployment benefit extensions that were enacted last February and are described below. It does NOT include any MORE extensions. An explanation:  If, according to the chart below, people in your state were most recently entitled to 73 weeks of unemployment benefits and you have used up your 73 weeks, you will not get any more weeks. But if you have only used up 60 weeks, then you will still get the last 13 (unless the unemployment rate in your state drops below the trigger). If you exhausted your weeks of unemployment benefits in 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2012,  there are NO extra weeks for you. Please check THIS LINK for more details as they are available. 
Update January 1, 2013 (2 a.m.): The Senate has approved an extension of unemployment benefits as part of a Fiscal Cliff deal. Please check THIS LINK for details as they are available.

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