Unemployed workers will get some help under the $787 billion Stimulus Act that President Obama signed into law on February 17, 2009.
Update: President Obama signed a new law that restores stimulus unemployment benefits through 2011.
The Stimulus Act, officially referred to as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA or Recovery Act), was spawned by President Obama’s economic stimulus package, also generally referred to as the economic stimulus plan, economic stimulus law, economic stimulus bill and other variations.
Several provisions in the new Act are designed to assist workers who are currently unemployed and those who will become unemployed, both thanks to the escalating recession that began in December 2007. The provisions are summarized below.
Stimulus Unemployment Benefits Summary
The new Stimulus Act amends the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008, by extending state unemployment benefits (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) to eligible unemployed workers for up to 33 weeks through December 31, 2009 instead of August 27. Eligible unemployed workers in states with high unemployment rates will receive the most weeks of stimulus extended unemployment benefits.
The Stimulus Act also increases weekly unemployment compensation by $25 in all states, and it suspends federal income tax on the first $2,400 in unemployment compensation that unemployed workers collect in 2009. Ordinarily, the IRS taxes all unemployment compensation.
Another provision in the Stimulus Act significantly expands Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Programs, to better help U.S. workers who lose their jobs or work hours because of foreign trade. TAA Programs will cover additional workers and provide more in the way of unemployment compensation, health insurance subsidies, and job training and job searching assistance.
Perhaps most significantly in this time of snowballing unemployment, the Stimulus Act will provide federal funding to states that expand unemployment insurance coverage, so that more workers who lose their jobs will become eligible for stimulus unemployment benefits.
According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a worker advocacy organization, over 500,000 unemployed workers, such as part-time and low-income workers and those attending training programs, will benefit from the expanded coverage. Only 37 percent of unemployed workers currently receive unemployment benefits, according to NELP.
To apply for or inquire about stimulus unemployment benefits or extended unemployment benefits (Emergency Unemployment Compensation), contact the relevant state unemployment office or the nearest full-service One-Stop Career Center.
In addition to stimulus unemployment benefits, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides a 65 percent government subsidy to help eligible unemployed workers pay COBRA extended health insurance premiums. See the blog post COBRA Subsidy Under the Stimulus Act for more information.
Consult an attorney for legal advice.