Emergency jobless benefits could end for thousands statewide

While Washington’s employment picture has improved during 2012, the state Employment Security Department has warned that up to 60,000 residents could lose their unemployment on Dec. 29, if federal lawmakers do not extend the nation’s emergency jobless benefits program.

Of those residents facing the shut-off, state officials estimated up to 1,400 of them are in Whatcom County, said Sheryl Hutchison, communications director for the Employment Security Department.

Residents in other states around the country also receiving federal jobless aid are facing the same end to their emergency benefits.

Congress has extended the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program 10 times in the past four years, but state officials said there is currently no indication it will be reauthorized again.

Should the program’s extension receive new authorization, the Employment Security Department will notify anyone who claimed unemployment benefits during one or more weeks in December, according to officials at the department.

Since it started in July 2008, the federal emergency benefits system has paid more than $5.6 billion in unemployment aid to more than 407,000 people in Washington state, according to the Employment Security Department.

Through much of the recession, the majority of jobless residents could receive unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks, which included 26 weeks of regular benefits, 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation and 20 weeks of extended benefits, in that order.

Extended benefits were cut off last April due to the state’s improved unemployment rate, according to the Employment Security Department, and Congress has scaled back emergency benefits to maximum of 37.

If no new action is taken, after Dec. 29, unemployed residents will only be able to receive regular benefits.

The Employment Security Department will being sending emails, robocalls and direct mails to recipients of unemployment benefits over the next few weeks to remind them the program could end before the end of the month.

WorkSource will still offer a variety of workshops, skill assessments, online courses, job counseling and other services aimed at helping job seekers find work.

Contact Evan Marczynski at evan@bbjtoday.com or call 360-647-8805. 

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