We had 3 different calls in a 30-minute period yesterday from individuals regarding their unemployment benefits through the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. When I glanced at my blog analytics this morning, I noticed that the EUC benefit is the top-trending search item that is bringing people to the blog this week. So, perhaps it is time to update where we are on available unemployment benefits.
The question of whether you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits for any particular two-week period actually depends upon a sequence of questions.
- Are you approved for unemployment benefits?
- If yes to #1, are you still within an active benefit year?
- If yes to #2, is there a benefit plan actively available for which you qualify?
- If yes to #3, do you still have a balance available out of the maximum benefit amount for that plan?
- If yes to #4, were you available to work (and actively looking for work) during the two-week period for which you are reporting?
- If yes to #5, did you successfully certify your availability to work?
The questions that qualify you for benefits week to week really are asked in that order. Many people have been advised that they would qualify for a federal EUC tier continuing well into 2014. And many of those unemployed people have assumed that they would receive federal EUC benefits well into 2014, as long as they continue to be available for work and to certify availability.
However, the Congressional authorization for the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expires as of December 28th, 2013. So, even though an unemployed worker may have been approved for a tier of EUC benefits continuing into mid-2014, that approval is contingent upon the EUC benefit plan still being funded (question #3 above). As it stands at this point, the EUC program will end in late December. Depending upon the timing of an individual’s two-week certification, some people may still receive EUC monies for a week or two after that (benefits for calendar weeks prior to December 29th). But then it ends.
A recent commentary in the Washington Post confirms that it seems unlikely that Congress will approve an extension of the EUC program into 2014. I concur. It’s possible that Congress will grant a last-minute extension into 2014. However, especially given the mood of this legislature at this time, I think it’s unlikely. So best to assume at this point that EUC benefits will not be available in 2014 and plan accordingly.