The U.S. Congress and the states decide how long unemployment benefits last. State unemployment benefits are 26 weeks in most states. However, the years 2010 and 2011 were years the unemployed individual could collect unemployment benefits for 99 weeks, just five weeks short of two years, due to federal emergency unemployment benefits provided by Congress, who makes emergency benefits available to the states. The length of time you can collect state and federal unemployment benefits depends on the state you live in and the actions of Congress.
State Unemployment Benefits
Most states provide 26 weeks of state benefits to unemployed individuals who meet eligibility requirements. Eligibility follows federal guidelines, based on separation from employment through no fault of your own. You must have sufficient prior employment in the base period of 15 to 18 months prior to becoming unemployed. Your prior employment income determines the weekly amount of benefits you receive through both state and federal unemployment weeks of benefits.
The federal government adds emergency benefits in times of high unemployment and discontinues emergency benefits at dates and times set by Congress. Congress adds emergency benefits in tiers, with four tiers available in 2011, for a total of 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation. Congress approved EUC benefits only to January 2012, but it can extend the benefits dates forward, as it did in December 2010, for as long as unemployment remains high. Additional benefits include 13 weeks of extended benefits provided by the federal government. Some states add seven weeks to the extended benefits.
Read More: How to Understand Federal Unemployment Extended Benefits
State Unemployment Rate
Workers in some states qualify for unemployment benefits but may not qualify for equal benefits if they originally worked in another state. State laws vary, but the major difference in unemployment benefits lies in each state’s unemployment rate. When the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state exceeds 6 percent, some benefits become available that would not otherwise be available to that state and the worker. If you live in a state that has high unemployment, you may qualify for unemployment benefits for an additional length of time.
Looking for work becomes a full-time job for the unemployed individual collecting benefits. The unemployment recipient must perform job searches and report to the employment office as requested. You must be able to work and be available for employment, and you must accept suitable employment if it is offered. Benefits in 2010 and 2011 reached 99 weeks for thousands of job seekers. This included 26 weeks of state benefits, 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation benefits from the federal government and 20 weeks of extended benefits provided by the federal and state governments. The state you live in and Congress approve unemployment benefits based on the economy and available funds.
- “The New York Times”; Michigan Cuts Jobless Benefit by Six Weeks; Michael Cooper; March 2011
- U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration: Emergency Unemployment Compensation 2008 (EUC) Program
- U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration: Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefits
- State of California Employment Development Department; New Developments on Federal Unemployment Extensions; May 2011
Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.