How to Qualify for an Unemployment Benefits Extension

In response to the high joblessness rates facing the country in the late 2000s, Congress acted to offer an unemployment benefits extension nationwide. The extension was actually approved in two parts: the first part is 13 weeks, and the second part is an additional 7. This means you could be eligible for an additional 20 weeks of benefits through the two extensions, totaling another 5 months beyond your current limit. To determine if you qualify for either extension, consider the following criteria.

Qualifying for the First Extension

The vast majority of individuals who lost their jobs in the most recent wave of national layoffs will find they are qualified for the first extension in benefits. To qualify, you must:

  • Be fully or partly unemployed after June 6, 2008
  • Exhaust all your regular unemployment insurance claims
  • Not qualify to file a new claim
  • File a valid claim on or after May 7, 2006
  • Have a regular unemployment insurance claim where the total amount earned is either more than 40 times your weekly benefit amount in a given base period or more than 1.5 times your highest quarter amount in your base period

A base period is a 12-month block of time. Each base period is broken into four quarters consisting of three months. Your base period is determined in the first four quarters after you file a claim, or the first year of unemployment benefits. If you qualify, you are eligible for your weekly benefit amount up to a maximum benefit of either: 80 percent of the maximum of your regular claim or 20 times the weekly benefit of your regular claim, whichever is less.

Qualifying for the Second Extension

To qualify for the second extension, the same information shown above must continue to be true. You must have collected all benefits of the first extension prior to December 26, 2009. The second extension is available only once the first extension has been exhausted. At that point, you qualify for your weekly benefit amount up to a maximum benefit of either: 50 percent of the maximum benefit of your regular claim or 13 times the weekly benefit amount of your regular claim. As you can see, your benefit amounts will be lower in the first extension than in the original claim and then drop again in the second extension.

Applying for the Extension

The good news about this program is you have to do very little to determine if you are qualified. If you are qualified, you will receive an update by mail about your eligibility, and you will be automatically enrolled to continue receiving benefits. Keep this in mind: you must be constantly searching for a new job while collecting unemployment insurance. You must also report any income you receive. If you fail to do either, you will be committing insurance fraud. This is punishable with a return of every dollar you collected. You may have to pay additional fines or even be subject to criminal punishments if the amount you receive is large or you commit the fraud more than once.

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