My article from last June related to unemployment benefits continues to receive a great number of hits. Based upon the google analytics for searches that bring viewers to that page, I am adding some new questions and answers to be of help.
Q: I am close to completing EUC Tier 2 benefits. Will I be eligible for Tier 3?
A: Possibly! Tiers 1 and 2 of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation extensions are available to all states. Tiers 3 and 4 are only available to workers in states with an especially high unemployment rate. Unemployed workers in Illinois currently do have access to Tiers 3 and 4. This assumes meeting the general requirements for eligibility (able to work; available for work; actively looking for work). Click here for further explanation of tiers available.
Q: I am receiving EUC benefits and I have a balance still available. Could I continue to receive these benefits even though my state’s first benefit year ends?
A: Yes! You are able to continue receiving EUC benefits for which you are qualified, even if your first benefit year has reached its end date (BYE). Click here for confirmation.
Q: I am in the middle of an EUC tier. Why is the state of Illinois evaluating whether I’m eligible for a new, second year claim for the state?
A: One year after your claim for regular Illinois benefits is established, IDES is required to assess whether you are eligible for a new state benefit year due to part time or occasional employment. If you are eligible for a new state benefit year (up to 26 weeks of new benefits), then the state must evaluate further.
The new EUC legislation passed in July of 2010 requires the state to compare the weekly benefit amount (WBA) you receive from EUC on the original claim with the new WBA for which you would be eligible in your second state benefit year. Basically, the state compares and opts for which would give you better benefits for the full period available. If your adjusted WBA for a new state benefit year is either $100 less or 25% less than your current EUC weekly benefit amount, then you would continue on the federal EUC benefits. Click here for confirmation.
Q: I was receiving Tier 2 EUC benefits and still had a balance available. Due to my wages from temporary assignments, I am eligible for a second benefit year through the state of Illinois. That weekly benefit amount is high enough that IDES has moved me into the second claim year. Will I be eligible to resume Tier 2 EUC benefits after my new Illinois claim has been exhausted?
A: Yes! If the EUC program is still active when you exhaust benefits under your new Illinois claim year, then you would be eligible to resume EUC benefits at the tier for which you were eligible.
If the new Illinois claim took effect in the middle of a federal tier, then you would resume that tier at that original weekly benefit amount. It’s my understanding that the weekly benefit amount for any new tiers would then be based on your most recent Illinois benefit claim year.
The EUC program is currently available for qualifying claims until January 3, 2012, with benefits payable into June of 2012.
Q: I have exhausted my available state benefits, as well as all four tiers of the federal Emergency Unemployment coverage. Is the US Congress considering any additional unemployment tiers?
A: At this time, federal emergency coverage offers only 4 tiers. It’s my understanding that there are congressional committees discussing the possibility of extending the EUC program and/or adding additional tiers. However, this has been stuck in committee since last August.
Q: Why would I want to accept temporary work while I’m receiving unemployment benefits?
A: There are several good reasons to accept temporary work while you are receiving unemployment benefits. It helps with your confidence, as well as keeping your workplace skills sharp. It can even make sense financially!
First, you are eligible to earn up to 50% of your weekly benefit amount in any given week without any reduction in your unemployment benefits for that week. If your weekly benefit amount is $300, then you may earn up to $150 in temporary wages. That’s $450 total (pre-tax).
Second, you are eligible to earn less than 100% of your weekly benefit amount without being booted out of the IDES process. Let’s say that your weekly benefit amount is $300 and you earn $295. Then IDES will consider $150 of your earnings free and clear. That leaves $145 of earnings. So your weekly benefit amount of $300 would be reduced dollar for dollar by that remainder ~ $300 – $145 = $155. So your total income for that week would be $295 from the temporary assignment and $155 from IDES ~ or $450 total (pre-tax). You are tapping $145 less that week from your IDES available balance, which helps to extend that benefit available to you for a longer period overall.
Third, temporary wages can help you to establish a new state benefit year once your original claim period ends. This is associated with the 607B provision for Illinois state unemployment benefits.
Q: If I do accept temporary assignments while I’m unemployed, how do I report that to IDES when I certify?
A: Temporary wages are reported for the week earned, not for the week paid.
The IDES online certification form doesn’t really give options relevant for a temporary assignment ending because the client’s need has been completed. So, when the form asks why the employment ended, we recommend selecting “laid off.” That’s the most suitable answer of the drop-down options if the assignment was simply completed (e.g., rather than being fired).
A one-week temporary assignment that is full-time hours might well earn you more than your unemployment weekly benefit amount. If that occurs, I suggest that you call your local IDES office and speak with a claim consultant there. They are sometimes able to override the online function that removes you from the process and forces you to wait a week before requalifying you. A close friend was advised that the one-week waiting period is applicable only once each year. I haven’t verified this with IDES. So be sure that you ask!
Do you have other questions about unemployment benefits? Or have you had experiences that might help other jobseekers? If so, I hope you will post a comment below. I’ll do my best to get helpful answers or clarifications for you.