Unemployment is a safety net for those who unexpectedly lose employment or have an unexpected reduction in employment. In early December, President Obama arurged Congress to extend long-term unemployment benefits. However, when Congress passed its budget, there was no extension in long-term benefits. As a result, on December 28 the federally extended long-term unemployment benefits will end. Congress can still pass a retroactive bill that would extend the benefits, but the benefit checks would still be at least a month delayed for the 1.3 million Americans currently receiving them. According to a Washington Post article, it takes about 8 months for the average job hunter to find new employment. This is two months longer than most state unemployment benefits are available. The federal extension of long-term unemployment benefits can extend state benefits for up to a total of 99 weeks, which is just under two years. During that time, job seekers must still qualify for unemployment every week.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits
The federal government set guidelines for the states to follow, but each state handles its own unemployment benefits program. Each state sets its own eligibility standards, benefits standards, and time frame within the federal guidelines. For instance in Washington, an employee must have 680 hours of employment in a base year and have lost employment through no fault of their own. The state determines what a base year is and has created a chart for those who want to calculate their potential weekly benefits.
Weekly benefits, under Washington’s program can last from 13 to 26 weeks depending on several variables. Although the federal government does not handle unemployment benefits, the federal extension provided money to states so that the states could extend their benefits beyond 26 weeks. States were not required to extend them to the full 99 weeks, but that was the limit set on the federal funding. The extension helped those who continued to have difficulty finding sufficient, new employment, but they still had to meet the ongoing requirements of the benefits.
Individuals who have recently lost their jobs are likely eligible for unemployment benefits, but that does not mean that they will remain eligible for continued benefits after their initial filing. Since the purpose of unemployment benefits, is to provide emergency financial coverage while a person is finding new employment, unemployment benefit programs require applicants to try and find new employment. A person has to apply for unemployment and must be actively job-seeking each week to maintain benefits. A person does not have to accept the first employment opportunity that comes along, if it does not provide sufficient income. But, some individuals do need to seek at least part-time employment if they have been on unemployment for an extended period of time. Additionally, those who are working part-time may also qualify for reduced unemployment benefits and it may allow a person to extend benefit eligibility.
If you believe you have been unfairly denied unemployment benefits or wish to appeal an unfavorable benefit determination, contact a HKM employment law attorney for help.