Is Extended Unemployment Still An Option?

During the economic crisis of the late 2000s, the federal government began extending unemployment benefits to last for up to 99 weeks -- nearly two full years. This extension of federal unemployment benefits provided a life preserver to many families who were facing foreclosure, eviction, or the repossession of a vehicle due to job loss. However, these benefits began to phase out as the economy improved, and today's unemployed individuals will generally find themselves receiving compensation for a much briefer period of time. Read on to learn more about the extent to which extended unemployment benefits are still offered, and what else you should know before you file.

How long can you file for unemployment benefits?

Although unemployment insurance (UI) is a mandatory employee benefit set by the federal government, this benefit is administered by each individual state. Because of this, there can be some variance in the length of time for which you'll receive UI benefits.

In most states, a 26-week period of UI benefits is common (unless you find work sooner). However, some states have chosen to extend the maximum benefit period, while other states have dialed back significantly. If you work in Massachusetts, you may be able to receive an extra 4 weeks of benefits (30 weeks total), while if you work in Kansas, you'll likely be limited to 16 weeks.

Are there exceptions to these limits?

During the economic crisis, the federal government opted to extend UI benefits for all states, providing direct funding to affected individuals. This allowed the government to help families stay afloat while not committing cash-strapped states to additional payments. In times of high unemployment, the federal government may choose to extend benefits again -- however, this is not something you should count on when you find yourself unemployed. Your best bet is to seek permanent employment before the standard 26-week payment runs dry.

Can you choose in which state to file?

Keep in mind that the state in which you work -- not the state in which you live -- governs the amount and length of UI benefits that will be offered. If you live within a state's borders but travel to work in another state, or work remotely for a corporation headquartered elsewhere, your benefits may be complicated by this arrangement. You should contact a representative of the UI office in the state in which you work (or where your employer is headquartered) for more information.

For more information about unemployment hearings, benefits, and other aspects, contact a local lawyer who specializes in unemployment cases.