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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Unemployment Insurance: Available Unemployment Benefits and Legislative Activity

Katelin P. Isaacs
Analyst in Income Security

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. Until recently, unemployment benefits may have been extended for up to 53 weeks by the temporarily authorized Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program. Unemployment benefits may be extended for up to a further 13 or 20 weeks by the permanent Extended Benefit (EB) program under certain state economic conditions. 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 authorization for the EUC08 program expired the week ending on or before November 30, 2010. Those beneficiaries receiving tier I, II, III, or IV EUC08 benefits before November 27, 2010, are “grandfathered” for their remaining weeks of eligibility for that particular tier only. There will be no new entrants into any tier of the EUC08 program after November 27, 2010. See the section in this report on “Policy Proposals that Target Unemployment Benefit Exhaustees” for additional measures to address the needs of the long-term unemployed.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), P.L. 111-5, contained several provisions affecting unemployment benefits. ARRA temporarily increased benefits by $25 per week (Federal Additional Compensation, or FAC); extended the EUC08 program through 2009; temporarily provided for 100% federal financing of EB; and allowed states the option of temporarily easing EB eligibility requirements. ARRA also suspended income taxation on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits received in 2009. In addition, states do 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 as well as transferred $500 million to the states for administering unemployment programs. P.L. 111-92 expanded the number of weeks available in the EUC08 program through the creation of two additional tiers. P.L. 111-118 and P.L. 111-144 extended the EUC08 program, 100% federal financing of EB, and the FAC through the end of February 2010 and April 5, 2010, respectively. P.L. 111-157 extended these three UC provisions through the week ending on or before June 2, 2010.

On July 22, 2010, the President signed P.L. 111-205, the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010, into law. P.L. 111-205 extended the availability of EUC08 through November 27, 2010, and 100% federal financing of EB until December 1, 2010. P.L. 111-205 did not, however, extend the authorization for the $25 FAC benefit, which expired on May 29, 2010 (May 30, 2010, in New York state).

Several bills have been introduced recently in the House and Senate that would impact the availability of extended unemployment benefits. H.R. 6419 would extend the authorization for the EUC08 program and the 100% federal financing of EB through February 2011. S. 3981 and S. 3990 would extend these same provisions until the beginning of January 2012.

Date of Report: December 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: RL33362
Price: $29.95

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