The news hit late yesterday. Congress passed and sent the bill to the president to restore Unemployment Insurance extensions. The bill was hung up in a political filibuster since the end of May, leaving many who, unable to find work, ran out of regular benefits and were left with no income whatsoever.
There has been, as a result of this long-awaited announcement, a mass of confusion. Some people, who exhausted all possible regular benefits and all the available extensions, mistakenly misunderstood that there were now additional extensions. The media has not been clear in reporting just what has come to be. In some cases, articles have reported the restoration of “up to 99 weeks of unemployment.” What the media did not report is all the variables that come into play to be eligible for that length of time. In the end, desperate, hopeful people went to their local unemployment offices only to leave more angry and frustrated than they already were with no income and little chance of finding a job.
In an effort to clear up some of the uncertainty, let me point out a few things that will help you understand what is going on.
The number of Unemployment Insurance extensions is based solely on each state’s unemployment rate. Arkansas’ unemployment rate is now at 7.5 percent.
The national unemployment rate is 9.5 percent. That number is the average unemployment rate of each of the 50 states. There are some states with a much higher rate of unemployment than Arkansas, and some at a lower rate. Depending on where those numbers fall is what determines the number of unemployment extensions available.
Arkansas has, at this time, three “Tiers” of extensions. Some states have only one extension, while others with high unemployment rates have 5 extensions. The availability of any of the federally funded unemployment extensions can change at any given moment. If a state’s unemployment rate changes, so do the number of extensions.
A person who has worked in Arkansas with a full, 26-week claim is eligible to receive the full amount of each of the 3 Tiers of the extensions. This works out to be 73 weeks of unemployment benefits. If a person was not eligible for a full, 26-week regular benefits claim, then that person would not be eligible for the full amounts of each extension Tier. A person is not eligible for an extension at all if he or she did not work 20 weeks in the base period of the claim.
In other words, each person drawing unemployment will receive a different amount each week and for a different number of weeks. Each person’s work history and how much they made go into the calculations. No two claims are alike.
Arkansas will begin paying out the restored extension benefits on July 26.
That is good news. The bad news is that it won’t happen all at once. It will take up to 7 days to get this ball rolling again. Be thankful that you live here in Arkansas because there are some states that anticipate taking 6 weeks to get everyone caught up!
Please, learn and spread accurate information.
There is nothing more frightening than losing a job. It is a threat that strikes at your core ability to take of yourself and your family. Unemployment insurance eases some of that mountain of stress by providing enough of an income to tide you over while looking for another job. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find a job, so running out of unemployment too is an even bigger stress. That incredible amount of stress makes it difficult to keep your head straight, so to speak, when you need your faculties about you the most.
So, if you or someone you know is unemployed and subsisting on just unemployment insurance, learn what is really available to you in your area. Go to your local Arkansas Department of Workforce Services office and get to know all the facts.