Federal Unemployment Benefits To Run Out From July 1

Even with recent employment reports showing sluggish job growth, federal unemployment benefits are still slated to run out starting this month, as reported by the Washington Post this week. While most state unemployment benefits provide 26 weeks of unemployment compensation, Congress in response to the recession had also provided an additional 26 weeks of unemployment to workers on behalf of the federal government. From the beginning of the recession to now, Congress has reauthorized the Federal Unemployment Compensation and the Extended Benefits programs over ten times in order to ensure that most Americans have at least a full year of unemployment compensation available to them. While the last reauthorization of the federal benefits was in February, these federal benefits are slated to phase out starting July 1 and without further Congressional action will no longer be available to any worker by December 31 of this year.
What this means is that for workers still facing an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, unchanged for months, they will no longer have an important security net for them and their families. As the New York Times reported today, the nation added just 80,000 jobs in June, doing little to address the continuing unemployment and underemployment of millions of American workers. And with little hope of an additional stimulus measure passing Congress before the end of the year, these numbers will probably remain unchanged.
The mechanics of the phase out of federal unemployment benefits is simple but devastating for workers. Starting July 1, any worker who loses their job will only be eligible for their state unemployment benefits and there will be no federal benefits available to them if they do not find a job by December 31. Those who do find a job before December 31 will then be eligible for unemployment benefits up to December 29 at a maximum. If Congress does not reauthorize the Federal Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs, all federal unemployment benefits for any workers at the end of this year will be completely phased out.
As a result, if Congress does not otherwise act, all workers after December 31 will only be eligible for their state unemployment benefits. Every state’s level of benefits differ; in California, for example, one of the states that was hardest hit in the recession with an unemployment rate at 11 percent, most workers are only eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment.
With the average number of time unemployed for most workers now topping nine months, as reported in the New York Times, the only 26 weeks that most workers will be eligible for after the federal unemployment provisions run out will leave many workers across the nation vulnerable and unprotected.
For those interested in employee rights everywhere, this development is a major setback. With this issue coupled with the rise of wage theft across the nation, many workers are certainly beginning to feel under siege. With election season already in full swing, many workers may lose their unemployment benefits just in time for election day. It remains to be seen whether Congress will take seriously this most important issue that will be on many Americans’ minds on November 6.

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