President Obama signed a new law that extends eligibility for the current unemployment benefit extensions explained below, for two more months into 2012. A House-Senate conference committee will negotiate extending the benefits through 2012.
Update: The committee has come to an agreement and President Obama has signed the law. See the blog post Extended Unemployment Benefits 2012.
Under the new law, entitled the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (“Senate compromise bill”), eligible claimants may collect up to 99 weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits depending on state unemployment rates and eligibility dates, the same as under the previous law.
The UI benefits consist of up to 26 weeks in standard state unemployment benefits plus up to 73 weeks in federal jobless aid, which is a combination of Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits. Eligible claimants in states with a 3-month average unemployment rate of 8.5 percent or higher will receive the most weeks of the UI benefits combination.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the week-ending deadline to initially qualify for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) is now March 3, 2012, while the week-ending deadline for Extended Benefits (EB) is March 10, 2012. However, EUC and EB are currently payable only through the weeks ending August 18 and August 11, respectively. The deadlines will likely differ a bit among the states, as some unemployment offices announce week-beginning or statutory dates instead of week-ending dates.
If and when the time comes that you might be eligible for one of the four tiers or extended unemployment benefits, then the state unemployment office is required to notify you. Even though notified, you still might have to confirm your eligibility; for example, you might need to file a new claim or simply continue to submit the required reports, such as your job-searching activity. The rules vary by state.
Your weekly compensation amount for emergency unemployment compensation and extended unemployment benefits, if available in your state, will be the same as it was for your standard unemployment benefits. See the article “Extended Unemployment Benefits” for more general information about the EUC and EB programs. For specifics, contact the relevant state unemployment office or browse its Web site.
As its official title implies, the new law also authorizes a two-month extension of the yearlong reduction in payroll taxes (Social Security taxes) for employees and self-employed individuals. Ordinarily, workers pay 6.2 percent in Social Security taxes, but they will continue to pay only 4.2 percent for two more months into 2012. The conference committee mentioned above will also negotiate extending the tax cut through 2012.