Employment Law -- Employee
Unemployment benefits provide financial support for people who are out of work. States administer unemployment insurance, but unemployment compensation is a federal program under the U.S. Department of Labor. Unemployed workers who qualify can get weekly benefits and job search support until they can return to employment.
Many workers struggle month to month, even with a full-time job. Unemployment insurance benefits provide much-needed assistance when you lose a job or have your hours reduced. Unemployment benefits can replace some of the lost income while you search for a new job or business opportunities.
After the standard unemployment benefits run out, some workers are eligible for extended benefits. This page has information about the Extended Benefits program for unemployment compensation and links to more information about unemployment and your rights to benefits. Unemployment programs are different in every state, so you can talk to an employment lawyer in your area for answers to your specific questions.
What Are Extended Unemployment Benefits?
The Federal-State Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 1970 created the Extended Benefits program. The Extended Benefits program offers additional weeks of benefits to claimants who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. It only becomes active in states where the unemployment rate exceeds a certain threshold.
In addition, the federal government may establish special unemployment insurance (U.I.) programs to extend federal unemployment benefits for longer periods than usual or to individuals typically ineligible for unemployment insurance, such as the special U.I. programs established during the coronavirus pandemic.
How Long Do Extended Unemployment Benefits Last?
Regular state unemployment insurance provides approximately 26 weeks of benefits to claimants who meet state eligibility requirements. Extended benefits add 13 weeks of unemployment benefits when the state’s unemployment rate rises above a certain level.
The government may extend benefit payments an additional seven weeks for 20 weeks total in times of exceptionally high unemployment in the state. New Jersey, California, and Michigan are three states where 20 weeks of extended unemployment insurance benefits may be available. For instance, New Jersey extended benefits to 20 weeks in 2020 due to the high unemployment rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government may extend benefits beyond 20 weeks in severe economic distress.
Several federal programs during the coronavirus pandemic extended unemployment compensation benefits. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (P.E.U.C.) program, established by the CARES Act, was one such program that extended U.I. benefits for up to 53 weeks during the pandemic.
Be aware that if the state unemployment rate drops below the threshold to trigger extended benefits, the program becomes inactive, and the benefits payments to claimants will stop.
What Are the Requirements to Qualify for Extended Benefits?
To qualify for extended benefits, a claimant must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own.
- Have exhausted all regular unemployment insurance benefits.
- Not be receiving benefits under any other program such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (P.U.A.).
- Have earned enough money during a base period.
Claimants fired for misconduct or who quit may not be eligible for Extended Benefits.
In most states, the claimant does not need to file a new claim for Extended Benefits. For example, California’s Employment Development Department (E.D.D.) will proactively notify eligible claimants that it has extended their unemployment compensation.
In addition to extending the duration of U.I. benefits, the federal government can also expand who is eligible for them. During the coronavirus pandemic, P.U.A. extended eligibility for unemployment benefits to the following groups who do not qualify for regular state unemployment insurance:
- Business owners.
- Self-employed workers.
- Independent contractors.
- People with limited work history.
- People who had used all their regular U.I. benefits and extended benefits.
- People who were serving false statement penalty weeks on their regular U.I. claim.
What Are the Requirements for Claiming Extended Benefits?
Once a claimant has qualified for extended benefits, they must continue to certify for benefits according to state requirements.
Claimants also must continue to satisfy state work search requirements. That means the claimant must continue looking for suitable work and documenting contacts with potential employers. However, some states, such as New Jersey, waived their work search requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As with regular U.I., a state may disqualify a claimant who does not accept an offer of suitable employment from its unemployment insurance program.
What is the Weekly Benefit Amount on Extended Benefits?
Claimants on Extended Benefits receive the same weekly benefit amount as under the regular unemployment insurance program. However, in some instances, the federal government will modify the weekly benefit amount available to claimants.
For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (F.P.U.C.) provided an additional $600 per week to people collecting regular state unemployment benefits.
You should consult an attorney if you need help with the unemployment process in your state. An experienced attorney will be well-versed in the law and understand how to navigate the system more effectively and efficiently.
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