The Latest Changes to the Unemployment Benefits Program

Policies for unemployment benefits change on a regular basis, which is why you will want to stay informed of any updates that may affect your benefits.

When you submit an unemployment claim, it is important to understand how it will be processed and how long you can expect to receive assistance if you are approved.

Unemployment insurance, otherwise known as UI, has been available since 1935 and over the course of the program’s history, there have been many changes. Some updates only apply to employers, but if you are a claimant, it is important to know how revisions to the laws can affect your ability to make a claim. Factors such as the unemployment compensation amount, as well as how long you can receive benefits, change regularly and can even vary from one state to the next. For example, states may limit or extend the number of weeks that you are eligible to receive benefits based on factors such as the current unemployment rate. Keep in mind that each state is in charge of setting its own policies, meaning that when and where you apply for benefits can affect your eligibility for assistance. Below, learn more about unemployment insurance benefits and discover what recent changes to the program may apply to you.

Length of Time You Can Receive UI Benefits

In many cases, you can receive UI insurance benefits for up to 26 weeks after you are approved for the program. However, the laws for how long you can receive UI unemployment vary based on where you live. Up until 2011, every state allowed claimants to receive benefits for a full 26 weeks provided that they met all of the eligibility criteria throughout that time period.

However, some states began changing their rules in recent years. Starting in 2011, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina decreased the amount of time that you could claim benefits. However, Illinois’ reduction was only temporary, changing back after calendar year 2012. In 2012, Georgia reduced the amount of time that you could receive UI benefits, with Kansas and North Carolina following suit in 2013. Arkansas and Missouri reduced their benefit allowances in 2015, followed by Idaho in 2016. Arkansas enacted an additional reduction in benefits in 2017.

Currently, you can receive a full 26 weeks of UI insurance benefits in all but nine states. The states with shorter UI benefit periods are as follows:

  • Arkansas: 20 weeks
  • Florida: 12 weeks
  • Georgia: 14 weeks
  • Idaho: 21 weeks
  • Kansas: 16 weeks
  • Michigan: 20 weeks
  • Missouri: 13 weeks
  • North Carolina: 12 weeks
  • South Carolina: 20 weeks

Note that Idaho, Kansas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina are known to update the period of time that you can get unemployment based on changes to the current unemployment rate within the state.

Related Article: Other Unemployment Benefits and Assistance Programs

While the states above have limited the number of weeks that you can receive unemployment insurance benefits, other states have actually increased the number of weeks you can qualify for assistance in recent years. For instance, Massachusetts will pay you for up to 30 weeks, while Montana will provide up to 28 weeks of assistance.

In any case, you should always check with your state’s unemployment office to see how long you can currently receive benefits. The California Employment Development Department (EDD), for example, allows you to receive up to 26 weeks of benefits under normal circumstances. However, you may be able to get EDD unemployment with special provisions if you have lost your job due to a natural disaster. While federal unemployment laws are not generally affected by local disasters, you may find that other states provide additional assistance when you lose your job due to a disaster.

Laws for Extended Unemployment Benefits

Since 1957, the federal government has allowed for temporary UI benefit payments during economic depressions and when unemployment rates were on the rise. The last extension, known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC 08) was enacted in 2008 and expired in 2014. While claimants are not currently allowed to receive extended benefits under this law, it is important to note that they can complete the emergency compensation process has been provided on eight separate occasions. In the event of another economic depression or increase in unemployment in the future, unemployed workers may wish to check their eligibility for an extension. Benefits are usually extended for 13 or more weeks after a claimant’s regular benefits expire.

When asking “Who pays for unemployment?” note that the benefits are usually funded by tax revenue collected from employers. However, when extended unemployment insurance benefits are provided, the funds either come from the extended unemployment compensation account (EUCA) and/or general revenue from the U.S. Treasury.

Mandatory Drug Testing for UI Benefits in Certain Occupations

The unemployment insurance program does not test claimants for drug use across the board, but under a recent law, states may require certain UI applicants to undergo testing in order to be eligible for benefits. Applicants who are required to take the drug test may be denied UI insurance benefits if they do not pass the test. Under this act, claimants can be tested if one of the following applies:

  • They were discharged from work due to an unlawful use of drugs
  • They are only qualified for occupations that require undergoing regular drug tests

This law was initially part of the Middle Class Tax relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, but it was revised and enacted in 2017 to include a list of occupations that require such testing.

UI Benefits and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Unemployment benefit laws are continually changing, and f the most recent updates have resulted from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Under this act, states may choose to implement a reemployment services and eligibility assessments (RESEA) program, which is meant to help claimants find jobs faster while also preventing the likelihood of benefit overpayments. States that want to adopt RESEA programs must submit plans to the Secretary of Labor in order to receive funding. Claimants can benefit from this program because it will help them find reasonable employment more quickly, thus reducing the number of weeks that they need to claim benefits.

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