Jobless benefits end today

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 27, 2013

Beginning today, the federal government will no longer provide extended unemployment insurance to the long-term unemployed in a move that is expected to affect more than 1.3 million Americans.

The impact is likely to be significant in Alabama, as well.

“As of today, we have 11,732 people in Alabama receiving extended benefits,” said Will Whatley, a public information officer for the Alabama Department of Labor. “Next week, those people will no longer receive benefits.”

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The federal government began offering extended unemployment compensation benefits in 2009 during the country’s economic recession, when the unemployment rate had reached nearly 10 percent. Since 2009, the extended benefits have been renewed 11 times. The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.3 percent. However, critics of the program say it is time to end the emergency funding program and during the recent budget deal, Republicans and Democrats were unable to come to an agreement on extending the benefits.

“What the federal government provided was an extended unemployment compensation,” Whatley said. “In Alabama, workers who have been fired through no fault of their own qualify for unemployment benefits for 26 weeks. The federal program extended those benefits past 26 weeks. Beginning next week, people who have been receiving unemployment benefits for more than 26 weeks in Alabama will no longer receive benefits.”

The state of Alabama provides unemployment benefits to workers who have been out of work for less than 26 weeks. Once a worker has been out of work for more than 26 weeks, he or she is no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.

While the federal government provided extended unemployment insurance, a worker in Alabama who had been out of work from between 43 and 63 weeks was still eligible for unemployment benefits. The federal government paid for all of these benefits.

In order to have qualified for those extended benefits, the recipients had to be fired through no cause of their own. These were people who had been employed and then lost their jobs through downsizing, or they were laid off. If the individual was fired for cause, he did not qualify for the benefits.”

Whatley said Congress could pass a bill that will reauthorize the extended unemployment benefits. “Congress may decide to reauthorize the extended benefits when they reconvene in January,” Whatley said. “They might also make the benefits retroactively apply to anyone who does not receive benefits in the next week.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. R-Nev., have said they plan to introduce a bill that will reauthorize the extended unemployment benefits for an additional six months at a cost of $6 billion when Congress reconvenes.

The loss of federal money will not affect the way the Alabama Department of Labor operates. “In a way, all the money from the extended unemployment benefits is federal money,” Whatley said. “All we do is administer that money to the people who need it. All it means for us is that there will be less people that we are giving money out to.”