Congress’s bipartisan approval of the fiscal cliff compromise, H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, includes an extension of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program through 2013 (see Title V of H.R. 8), continuing crucial benefits for America’s unemployed workers. Many raised their voices to ensure that the unemployed were treated as a top priority in the fiscal cliff negotiations. This extension of the EUC program will help keep millions of people out of poverty.
The extension of EUC was appropriately deemed an emergency measure, which meant its cost is not required to be offset. The slow economic recovery makes this extension absolutely essential in helping people who are actively looking for work. Without the continuation of the EUC program through 2013, more than two million unemployed workers would have lost benefits on January 3, 2013, nearly one million would have run out of state benefits by March (and would not have had access to federal ones), and more than five million would have been denied EUC in 2013. In Illinois 90,000 unemployed workers would have received their last EUC payment by mid-January, and an additional 2,800 unemployed workers each week would run out of state benefits and would have no access to federally funded benefits.
Congress has never allowed federally funded unemployment insurance benefits to expire when the unemployment rate is above 7.2 percent (see figure 2), and, with the renewal of the EUC program, Congress preserves this crucial program. Although the nation’s jobs deficit is still significant, strong job creation policies and continued aid will help unemployed workers avoid their own personal fiscal cliff.
The maximum number of weeks of EUC unemployed workers may receive is determined by the number of weeks a state pays for regular benefits and the unemployment rate in that state. What does this means for unemployed workers in Illinois? For individuals who started their regular (state funded) benefits during 2012 (and therefore eligible to receive a maximum of 25 weeks of regular benefits, reduced from 26 weeks prior to 2012), and exhausted their regular benefits after September 1, 2012, it looks like the maximum number of weeks of EUC benefits they are eligible to receive is 35.75 weeks (final calculation still to be determined). This is a total of 60.75 weeks of unemployment insurance.
The Shriver Center recently published a guide to help workers through the unemployment insurance maze, A Worker’s Guide to Unemployment Insurance in Illinois. The guide covers a range of topics including eligibility issues, the claims process, and what to do if you are denied benefits. Also visit the website of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) for the latest information about the EUC program.