Will Congress Further Extend Unemployment Benefits?

During the latter end of 2010, many people asked the question: “Will Congress extend unemployment benefits?” Fortunately, they receive their answer just before Christmas of 2010. On December 17, 2010, President Obama signed into law a sweeping tax package that extended federal unemployment benefits for an additional 13 months. The new legislation ended uncertainty for those who relied on the unemployment benefits while they look for new jobs. For individuals who were receiving unemployment benefits at the time this new legislation was passed, they can continue to receive these payments through the end of 2011. However, federal unemployment benefits continued only be extended for a maximum of 99 weeks.

Current laws now modified the deadline to file for an additional extension of unemployment benefits. As soon as someone becomes unemployed they can file a regular unemployment insurance claim and receive up to 26 weeks of benefits. To continue to receive benefits that individual must now file for a “first tier extension” on or before December 25, 2011, which will provide up to an additional 20 weeks of benefits. If individual desires to continue to receive unemployment benefits following the expiration of the additional 20 weeks MS file for an extension on or before January 1, 2012 for the second and third and fourth tier level of benefits as well as the separate FED-ED extension.  All combined, the initial 26 weeks of benefits combined with these additional five tiers of benefits allow for the total maximum benefits to equal 99 weeks.

Here is a visual breakdown of the current federal unemployment benefit tiers following the new legislation passed in late 2010:

Unemployment Claims Maximum Weeks of Available Benefits
Deadline for This Type of Unemployment Benefit Claim
Regular Claim Up to 26 total weeks of benefits Once someone becomes unemployed
1st Tier Federal Extension Up to 20 total weeks of benefits December 25, 2011
2nd Tier of Federal Extension Up to 14total  weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
3rd Tier of Federal Extension Up to 13 total weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
4th Tier of Federal Extension Up to 6 total weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
Separate FED-ED Extension Up to 20 total weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
POTENTIAL TOTAL MAXIMUM BENEFITS Up to 99 total weeks of benefits


Additionally, unemployed individuals who are currently collecting unemployment benefits from the particular state that they live in may also move into the federal unemployment compensation program described above. It is important to maximize the amount of state unemployment benefits you receive before searching for federal benefits. Some states have voluntarily extended their unemployment benefits for up to an additional seven weeks (making the total amount of benefits 20 weeks for those states). Once you are certain that your maximize the amount of state unemployment benefits you’re entitled to receive there may be additional federal unemployment insurance that you were able to collect.

At the time this article was written, it is unclear whether the question: will Congress extend unemployment benefits laws past the end of 2011 is in the affirmative or negative. It is important for individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits to be actively searching for employment to prepare against the possibility that benefits will not be further extended before the end of 2011. All states have agencies to help those who are currently unemployed or underemployed and additional nonprofit agencies and resources are available to anyone who is seriously looking for a new job. Common wisdom suggests that the current extension of benefits will not be further extended, as the 99 weeks of available benefits is already a historical high. However, economic, political and other unknown circumstances could swiftly change this outlook.

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