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Friday, November 4, 2011

Federal Programs Available to Unemployed Workers

Katelin P. Isaacs, Coordinator
Analyst in Income Security

David H. Bradley
Analyst in Labor Economics

Janemarie Mulvey
Specialist in Health Care Financing

Benjamin Collins
Analyst in Labor Policy

Four groups of federal programs target unemployed workers: unemployment insurance, health care assistance, job search assistance, and training. This report presents information on federal programs targeted to unemployed workers specifically, but does not attempt to discuss meanstested programs (such as Medicaid or SSI) that are available regardless of employment status.

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. Unemployment benefits may be extended for up to 53 weeks by the temporarily authorized Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program. Unemployment benefits may also be extended for up to 13 or 20 weeks by the permanent Extended Benefit (EB) program if certain economic conditions exist within the state. Workers whose job loss is caused by foreign competition may be eligible for extended income support through the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) program. If an unemployed worker is not eligible to receive UC benefits and the worker’s unemployment may be directly attributed to a declared major disaster, a worker may be eligible to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits.

Two federal laws may aid unemployed workers in the purchase of health insurance. The first, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), allows unemployed workers in certain circumstances to continue health insurance coverage from their employers. The second, the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), allows certain TAA participants to receive an advanceable and refundable tax credit for purchasing qualified health insurance.

Federal support for Americans seeking assistance to obtain, retain, or change employment is undertaken by a national system of local One-Stop Career Centers (One-Stops) that were established by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. A variety of services and partner programs—notably including UC and TAA—are located within or linked to One-Stops, which primarily provide job search assistance, career counseling, labor market information, and other employment services. Core labor exchange services (matching job seekers and employers) are provided by the U.S. Employment Service (ES), which was first established by the Wagner- Peyser Act of 1933 and most recently amended under Title III of WIA. In addition to ES, Title I of WIA authorizes resources for similar core and intensive employment services for youth, adults, dislocated workers, and targeted populations.

WIA Title I is also the nation’s central job training legislation, providing funds for traditional, onthe- job, customized, and other forms of training to individuals unable to obtain or retain employment through other services.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (
P.L. 111-5, known as ARRA or the 2009 stimulus package), as amended, contains several provisions related to unemployment benefits. ARRA provisions affect unemployment income support as well as health insurance (COBRA and HCTC) programs.

Date of Report: October 2
6, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
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