I've heard and read a lot of conflicting information on the status of the unemployment extensions. One thing is for certain - it is an extremely confusing situation. Part of this is due to the ongoing uncertainty of unemployment extensions as legislation is currently pending in Congress, but part of it is that the system of tiers is complex and not well publicized or explained (at least in my experience).
The Miami Herald had a nice explanatory item recently in response to a confused reader. Here's the situation regarding the unemployment extensions:
"State/regular benefits (paid from the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund) -- for up to 26 weeks.
These extensions are paid from federal funds:
Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Tier I is for up to 20 additional weeks;
Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier II is for up to 14 additional weeks;
Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier III is for up to 13 additional weeks;
Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier IV is for up to six additional weeks.
Under the latest extension, customers must exhaust available state/regular benefits on or before Feb. 20, 2010 to establish Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier I.
Customers must exhaust Tiers I, II, or III by Feb. 27, 2010 to be eligible for the next tier.
Whichever tier a customer is at on Feb. 28, 2010 will be the tier they complete and they will not be eligible for any additional tiers. The last week for which Emergency Unemployment Compensation could be paid is the week ending July 31, 2010."
As the system stands right now (assuming no further changes from pending legislation) it is set up such that only a certain subset of unemployed who fall into a "sweet spot" timeline of exhausting their third tier of benefits before Feb 27, 2010 will be eligible to receive the fourth tier, and thus the total of 79 weeks* of unemployment benefits. This is approximately two years of unemployment prior to Feb 27. What this means is that the "super" long-term unemployed (before 2008) won't receive additional help, and the medium- to long-term unemployed will not be eligible for further help either, as they won't be able to exhaust their extension tiers before the Feb 27 deadline.
There's an additional caveat for those in the short term, who haven't exhausted their state/regular benefits before Feb 20: these people will not be eligible for any of the EUC tiers.
Confusing and clearly insufficient to accommodate the vast numbers of unemployed which will likely persist throughout 2010 and into next year.
*I believe the "99 weeks" number often quoted is the maximum possible available due to individual state extensions that are not available to everyone on a federal level. So the maximum federal unemployment extension is 79 weeks.
(Note: Please check with your state unemployment office regarding your personal situation.)
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