Business

Emergency unemployment benefits reauthorized

Thousands of Washington’s jobless workers may continue to receive up to 99 weeks of benefits, now that Congress and the president have reauthorized a federal unemployment benefits program that expired last month.

“This is welcome news for unemployed workers who are having a hard time finding a job,” said Joel Sacks, Deputy Commissioner for the Employment Security Department. “We need to keep a safety net in place until the economy gathers more steam.”

For the past year, eligible jobless workers could receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, collected in this order: up to 26 weeks of regular benefits, up to 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) and up to 20 weeks of extended benefits.

Today’s action extends the EUC program, but does not expand the total weeks available. Therefore, people who have already collected all of their EUC benefits are not eligible for these additional benefits.

Depending on where individuals are in their claims cycle, they will fall primarily into two categories – those who are eligible for more benefits and those who are not.

Eligible for more benefits

When the EUC program lapsed at the end of November, individuals in tiers 1, 2 or 3 of the four-tiered EUC program could not advance to the next tier (e.g., could not move from tier 1 to tier 2), thereby losing access to the balance of their EUC benefits.

Also, individuals who ran out of regular benefits after November could not enter the EUC program, thus limiting them to up to 46 weeks of benefits.

Under the new EUC extension, unemployed workers approved for regular state benefits or EUC tiers 1, 2 or 3 may claim their full entitlement of EUC benefits. Currently, about 300,000 people in Washington fall into these categories.

These people will automatically move to the next tier of benefits and do not need to call Employment Security. Claimants who believe they have EUC benefits remaining but stopped claiming must call the EUC triage unit at 877-558-8509 to reopen their claims.

Not eligible for more benefits

Under the new legislation, the EUC program remains at a maximum of 53 weeks. Therefore, people in tier 4 of the EUC program, as well as those collecting “extended benefits” and those who have used up all of their benefits, are not eligible for additional benefits.

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LINKS

Employment Security: www.esd.wa.gov

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