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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Unemployment Insurance: Available Unemployment Benefits and Legislative Activity

Julie M. Whittaker
Specialist in Income Security

Alison M. Shelton
Analyst in Income Security

Various benefits may be available to unemployed workers to provide income support. When eligible workers lose their jobs, the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program may provide up to 26 weeks of income support through the payment of regular UC benefits. UC benefits may be extended for up to 13 or 20 additional weeks at the state level by the Extended Benefit (EB) program if certain economic situations exist within the state. In July 2008, a new temporary unemployment benefit, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program, began. EUC08 now provides up to an additional 34 weeks of unemployment benefits and, if certain economic conditions exist within the state, EUC08 may provide up to an additional 19 weeks of EUC08 benefits (totaling four tiers and 53 weeks of EUC08 benefits). The EUC08 program expires at the end of February, 2010. 

Certain groups of workers who lose their jobs because of international competition may qualify for income support through Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) programs. Unemployed workers may be eligible to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits if they are not eligible for regular UC and if their unemployment may be directly attributed to a declared major disaster. 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, P.L. 111-5 (the 2009 stimulus package), contained several provisions affecting unemployment benefits. ARRA increased unemployment benefits by $25 per week through December 2009. The stimulus package also extended the temporary EUC08 program through the end of 2009. ARRA provided for 100% federal financing of the EB program through January 1, 2010, and allows states the option of temporarily easing EB eligibility requirements. ARRA suspended income taxation on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits received in 2009. In addition, states would not owe or accrue interest, through December 2010, on federal loans to states for the payment of unemployment benefits. ARRA also provided for a special transfer of up to $7 billion in federal monies to state unemployment programs as "incentive payments" for changing certain state UC laws. In addition, ARRA transfers $500 million to the states for administering unemployment programs. (For more information on unemployment provisions in ARRA, please see CRS Report R40368, Unemployment Insurance Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.) 

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, P.L. 111-92, expanded the number of weeks available in the EUC08 program. Tier I benefits continue to be up to 20 weeks in duration and tier II benefits are now 14 weeks in duration (compared with 13 previously) and no longer are dependent on a state's unemployment rate. The new tier III benefit provides up to 13 weeks of EUC08 benefits to those workers in states with an average unemployment rate of 6% or higher. The new tier IV benefit may provide up to an additional 6 weeks of benefits if the state unemployment rate is at least 8.5%. 

On December 19, 2009, the President signed P.L. 111-118, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010, into law. P.L. 111-118 extends the EUC08 program through the end of February 2010. The law also amends ARRA by extending the 100% federal financing of the EB program as well as the $25 supplemental weekly benefit through February 2010. On December 16, 2009, the House passed H.R. 2847, the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010, which would extend the EUC08 program through the end of June 2010 in Title III—Unemployment and Other Emergency Needs. The President's 2010 budget emphasizes the need for legislation to make the UC system more responsive to changing economic conditions, with a focus on the EB program.

Date of Report: February 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL33362
Price: $29.95

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