report analyzes several types of recent changes to state Unemployment
Compensation (UC) programs. Three categories of UC state law issues are
considered: (1) changes in the duration of state UC unemployment benefits;
(2) changes in the UC weekly benefit amount; and (3) the enactment into
state law of two trigger options for the Extended Benefit (EB) program.
In 2011 and 2012, several states enacted legislation to decrease the maximum
number of weeks of regular state UC benefits. Until recently, all states
paid at least up to 26 weeks of UC benefits to eligible, unemployed
individuals. In 2011, however, six states passed legislation to decrease their maximum
UC benefit durations: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and
South Carolina. In 2012, Georgia also passed legislation to decrease the
maximum UC benefit duration.
Changes in UC benefit duration have consequences for the duration of federal
unemployment benefits that may be available to unemployed workers. State
UC benefit duration is an underlying factor in the calculation of duration
for additional federal unemployment benefits. Thus, the reduction of the
maximum duration of regular UC benefits reduces the number of weeks available to
unemployed workers in the federal extended unemployment programs (including the Emergency
Unemployment Compensation [EUC08] and EB).
States are temporarily prohibited from actively changing their method of
calculation for UC benefits if it would decrease weekly benefit amounts
(under P.L. 111-205, as amended), that is, the “nonreduction” rule. Some
states, however, make automatic adjustments to weekly benefit amounts
under existing state law. Consequently, when these states experience certain
conditions, such as a decrease in the average weekly wage used in the
automatic adjustment calculation, their maximum weekly UC benefit amount
may be decreased. More recently, P.L. 112-96 provides an exception to this
“nonreduction” rule in the case of state legislation enacted before March 1, 2012.
Any reduction to the UC weekly benefit amount also translates into reduced
EUC08 and EB weekly benefit amounts.
Finally, there are various optional EB trigger components—authorized under
permanent federal law (P.L. 91-373, as amended) and temporary federal law
(P.L. 111-312, as amended, and P.L. 111-5, as amended)—that states may opt
to enact under their state UC laws. Currently, 11 states have adopted an
optional trigger for the EB program, based on a state’s total unemployment rate (TUR),
into permanent state law. An additional 28 states have enacted this EB TUR
trigger temporarily, linking its expiration to the expiration of the
temporary 100% federal financing of the EB program under federal law (P.L.
111-5, as amended). Thirty-two states have adopted a three-year lookback
for this optional TUR trigger under current state law (temporarily authorized under
P.L. 111-312, as amended) to continue to meet the trigger criteria and continue
to pay EB benefits. In general, only states that have enacted at least one
of these EB trigger options (i.e., the TUR trigger or the three-year
lookback) had been able to pay EB benefits in 2011 and 2012. As of the
week of December 30, 2012, no state meets the requirements to trigger onto EB
using these EB state law options.
Overall, these three types of changes to state UC laws and programs have
consequences for the availability, duration, and amount of unemployment
benefits. This report describes these changes and analyzes their
consequences for UC, EUC08, and EB benefits. It will be updated, as needed, to
reflect any additional state UC changes.
Date of Report: January 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 20 Order Number: R41859 Price: $29.95
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