Extended Unemployment Benefits

Federal unemployment extensions were created to help workers economies remain stable during long-term periods of economic stress. They do so primarily by offering emergency unemployment compensation to qualifying workers.

State regulations vary. However, on average, unemployed workers in the U.S. can expect receive up to 26 weeks of benefits through their states’ Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs.

When states suffer from extreme and on-going lack of employment, a large percentage of the workforce can run out of UI benefits. These families can then burden or overwhelm other state assistance programs. To prevent that from happening, federal regulations call for unemployment benefits extension programs. These programs grant qualifying workers up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. Some states match federal programs with seven weeks of state-based emergency unemployment, potentially giving unemployed workers up to 20 extra weeks of emergency UI compensation.

When are unemployment benefits extensions available?

States use specific and detailed calculations to determine when federal unemployment extension periods can legally begin and end. Using guidelines established by the U.S. Secretary of Labor, states calculate their rates of insured unemployment each week. Reduced to its simplest explanation, insured unemployment is the ratio of workers filing unemployment claims to the ratio of workers gainfully employed.

When insured unemployment is calculated to be at or above 120 percent for a certain number of qualifying weeks, states enter unemployment benefits extension periods. These periods automatically terminate when a state’s insured unemployment rate falls below 120 percent for three consecutive weeks. Emergency unemployment compensation periods may not run longer than 13 weeks, even if state-insured unemployment rates remain above 120 percent.

States may not enter new extended unemployment compensation periods until at least 14 qualifying weeks after the end of their last unemployment extension periods. As a result, workers who have exhausted their standard benefits may or may not be able to file an extension for unemployment at any given time. Benefit availability depends entirely upon the economic conditions and the timing of emergency periods in their states of residence and filing.

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In the event that the United States were to suffer massive, nation-wide upheaval and unemployment, it is possible that the federal government might instate or reinstate additional emergency programs. During the 2008 Financial Crisis, for example, federal funding was used to launch the EUC Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offered additional benefits to qualifying workers.

Who qualifies for extended unemployment benefits?

American workers investigating how to get an extension on unemployment will find that they need to meet a series of criteria to qualify. To potentially receive an unemployment benefits extension, workers must:

  • Be living or applying for benefits in a state that is currently in a federal unemployment extension
  • Have qualified for and recently received standard unemployment benefits.
  • Have exhausted the standard unemployment benefits for which they qualified.
  • Be in good standing with the UI program (e.g. actively seeking work per program guidelines, compliant with all training or participation requirements, etc.).
  • Remain unemployed due to a lack of suitable work.

Workers eligible for emergency unemployment compensation will be notified by their states’ UI offices when a benefits extension goes into effect. Alternatively, workers who believe they may qualify but have not been notified can contact their local UI office and request to file an extension for unemployment.

What benefits do workers receive during unemployment extensions?

When emergency unemployment periods are in effect, qualifying workers receive the same amount in weekly employment benefits that they were eligible for under UI compensation. Half of their benefits will be paid by the state. The other half will be paid for using federal funds.

Extended unemployment benefits are available until:

  • The unemployment extension period ends due to a drop in the state insured unemployment rate.
  • The emergency unemployment compensation period times out at the end of 13 weeks.

Recipients who lose their benefits due to the end of an extension period may apply for assistance under other federal or state assistance programs but will no longer qualify for UI support. UI representatives may work with recipients during both standard and extended UI compensation periods to connect them to other agencies, benefits and resources they can utilize for support when unemployment funds cease to be available.

Applying for Extended Unemployment Benefits

UI recipients who qualify for emergency unemployment assistance will be notified by their states’ UI offices when an unemployment benefits extension period goes into effect. UI representatives will assist qualifying applicants in understanding and completing the state’s application and enrollment processes.

Unemployment compensation offices are also required to publicly post when an extension period goes into effect. Applicants who are not contacted may reach out to their local UI offices for information if they feel they may qualify for extended benefits.

In most cases, workers will file an extension for unemployment using the same online systems their states use to accept and manage standard unemployment benefits cases. Most standard continued eligibility factors carry forward into emergency periods, as well. Applicants receiving emergency unemployment benefits can expect:

  • To continue searching and applying for jobs in accordance with state UI program requirements.
  • Regularly documenting and submitting documentation of their job search efforts to the state UI office.
  • Participating in any retraining or job-preparation programs assigned to them by the UI office.
  • Submitting weekly benefits claims in order to receive their benefits.

The 2008 Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program

Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) was an unemployment extension program that ran from 2008 until January 12, 2014. EUC was 100 percent federally funded. It offered up to 14 weeks of continued UI compensation to American workers who had used up all of their standard state-issued unemployment benefits. The duration of available benefits was determined by states’ seasonally adjusted total unemployment rates.

No provisions currently exist to reinstate EUC. It does, however, serve as a valuable example of how supplemental emergency UI programs might be structured and run if they were to be implemented again in the future.

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