Update: On Monday (4/7/14), the Senate passed the legislation that will retroactively restore federal unemployment benefits for five months. (The legislation is mentioned immediately below.) The legislation now goes to the House, where it is not likely to pass.
Update: On Thursday (3/27/14), the Senate did a test vote on legislation that would restore federal unemployment benefits for five months, and it passed. However, it’s not likely to pass in the House because it doesn’t include job-creating measures, according to Speaker John Boehner.
Update: Democrats are criticizing House Speaker John Boehner for opposing the bipartisan Senate deal mentioned immediately below. Boehner said that the deal was “unworkable”. Subsequently, the deal will likely fail in the House even if the Senate passes it.
Update: Senate negotiators reached a bipartisan deal on Thursday (March 13, 2014) that would further extend unemployment benefits for five months, retroactively back to December 28. Its acceptance among the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is uncertain. Meanwhile, Congress goes on a weeklong recess beginning on Monday, March 17.
Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning to introduce the bill mentioned in the Update immediately below on Tuesday (March 11, 2014). The bill authorizes benefits for six months, retroactively back to December 28 of last year. About 2 million workers have now lost their benefit extensions
Update: On Tuesday, February 25, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he is pushing for a six-month extension of benefits, about half of what he actually wants. (Although he’s been pushing for at least a three-month extension, he actually wants a one-year extension.) He hopes that a smaller bill might encourage enough Republicans to pass it.
Update: Congressional Republicans have blocked passing a bill to extend unemployment benefits since the beginning of 2014. The earliest that a vote will be possible is when Congress returns from a break on Monday, February 24. In the meantime, House Democrats have estimated that the economy has lost billions of dollars since the beginning of the year from the lack of extended benefits. Approximately 1.8 million unemployed workers have now lost their extended benefits.
Update: Republicans blocked the cloture vote that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled for February 5, 2014. The vote was 58 to 40, which fell just short of the 60 votes needed to pass the measure and move on to a vote on the latest bill. Some Republicans complained that the latest bill to further extend benefits for three months did not have a proper offsetting spending cut attached, even though it is a non-controversial cut that both parties have used in the past. Approximately 1.7 million unemployed workers have now lost extended benefits.
Update: On February 5, 2014, the Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on the deal mentioned below, a bill to retroactively restore unemployment benefit extensions for three months. Republicans are demanding an open amendment process so that they may attach amendments to the bill, such as those that chip away Obamacare. So far, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has resisted that demand.
Update: By February 7, 2014, the Senate might vote on a deal to restore unemployment benefit extensions for three months. The deal includes an offsetting government spending cut that Republicans want and that both parties have used in the past.
Update: According to an aide of Majority Leader Harry Reid on January 28, Senate Democrats have put off trying to extend unemployment benefits for now to deal with other important legislative matters. When the Senate will vote on the unemployment benefits bill is uncertain, but they can do so quickly if Democrats reach a compromise with Republicans on attaching offsetting government spending cuts. Meanwhile, an estimated 1.6 million unemployed workers have lost extended benefits.
Update: On January 14, the Senate failed to pass a cloture motion to end debate and avoid a filibuster on legislation to extend emergency unemployment compensation. On January 17, Congress will go out on recess until the 27th. Subsequently, emergency unemployment compensation is not likely to be extended until late January at the earliest.
Update: On January 13, Senate Republican negotiators offered a new plan to extend emergency unemployment compensation for three months into 2014. Senate Democrats and Republicans planned to meet on January 14 to discuss the plan. Meanwhile, approximately 1.4 million unemployed workers have lost their benefit extensions since December 28.
Update: On January 7, 2014, the Senate voted to move ahead to full debate on the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. Six Republicans voted with 54 Democrats to pass the motion that permits the bill to move on to full debate. However, according to multiple media sources, Republicans in the Senate and House are not likely to vote to pass the $6.5 billion bill without attaching offsetting government spending cuts.
Update: The Senate has scheduled a bill entitled the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act for debate and a vote beginning on January 6, 2014. If the bill passes in both the Senate and House and is signed into law by President Obama, it will further extend unemployment benefit extensions for three months into 2014. The bill will retroactively cover unemployed workers who lost their benefit extensions due to the previous inaction of Congress.
Update: Despite that President Obama called on Congress to pass a renewal of federal unemployment benefit extensions into 2014, Congress did not do so before going on holiday recess. As a result, roughly 1.3 million unemployed workers lost their benefit extensions on 12/28/2013. However, if Congress does renew benefit extensions near the beginning of 2014, the extensions will likely be retroactive to cover those who lost them. President Obama is currently supporting a Democratic proposal to extend benefits for three months into 2014.
President Obama has signed a new law that stretches eligibility for federal unemployment benefit extensions through 2013.
Under the new law, nicknamed the “fiscal cliff bill” and officially entitled the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the unemployment benefit extensions consist of up to 47 weeks in Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and up to 20 weeks in Extended Benefits (EB).
When added to up to 26 weeks in standard state unemployment benefits, an unemployed person may collect up to 93 weeks in total benefits. However, several states will not qualify to pay all weeks of EUC or EB in 2013, because they will not meet the minimum unemployment rate triggers that were also extended by the new law.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the new law extends EUC with the same Tiers, weeks of benefits and unemployment rate triggers that were in effect on December 29, 2012. All unemployment rates listed below are three-month averages.
- Tier 1: 14 weeks in every state
- Tier 2: 14 weeks in states with an unemployment rate of at least 6.0%
- Tier 3: 9 weeks in states with an unemployment rate of at least 7.0%
- Tier 4: 10 weeks in states with an unemployment rate of at least 9.0%
Update: According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the federal budget cuts known as sequestration have cut maximum weekly EUC payments by an average of $62 across the states. To see how much your work state has cut EUC payments, see the report by NELP.
EB is also tied to state unemployment rates under the new law. The DOL recalculates state unemployment rates weekly, to determine whether Tiers 2-4 and EB are triggered on or off in each state. Tier 1 is always triggered on, as are standard state unemployment benefits.
EUC is often referred to as EUC08, because it became active under the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008. If you become eligible for EUC08 or EB, then your state unemployment office is required to notify you. But, 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.
Among other important things, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 also cuts taxes on incomes of up to $400,000 for individuals and up to $450,000 for couples filing jointly.
The new law does not extend the two-percent Social Security tax cut, more often referred to as the “payroll tax cut”. Subsequently, the 2013 Social Security tax rate goes back up to 6.2 percent for employees and 12.4 percent for self-employed individuals.
Employee Rights Blog has updated this post as more information became available on the unemployment benefit extensions. The last update of significance was on January 15, 2014.