Friday, November 21, 2008, AM | Leave Comment
Late Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008, Congress passed a legislation to extend the period of government assistance to unemployed Americans.
The bill, which was already approved by the House, is expected to be quickly signed by President Bush.
- In all states, the benefits have been extended by 7 weeks.
- In some states, where the unemployment rates average 6% or higher over the most recent three months, the benefits are further extended by 13 weeks for a total of 20 weeks.
Workers typically get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and it’s not uncommon for the government to extend that during economic slowdowns.
Here’s what you should know to take advantage of the new law.
How you qualify
To be eligible, you must be unemployed through no fault of your own and be actively seeking work. Requirements vary from state to state. Generally, wages earned and time on the job determine if you qualify and the level of assistance you will receive.
What you get
You should check with your own state unemployment office. States have their own formulas for determining how much you will receive and for how long, but a general rule of thumb is that you will get half of your last paycheck for 26 weeks, explained Andy Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project.
When you get it
Experts recommend filing for unemployment on your first day out of work. It generally takes two or three weeks after you file a claim to receive your first check.
What usually impacts your benefits
If you work part-time or freelance while you are collecting unemployment that will most likely reduce or eliminate your benefits. The same is true for severance checks in some states. Again check with your state office.
How to benefit from the new law
In most states your unemployment insurance will be automatically extended if the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act passes.
- Click on State Unemployment Insurance agency to find out more about unemployment insurance benefits on a state-by-state basis.