Sequester will reduce state's emergency jobless benefits

State officials are bracing for an expected 21.08 percent reduction in emergency unemployment compensation benefits due to the federal sequester law, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Out-of-work residents can receive emergency unemployment compensation, a federally funded program that provides additional weeks of unemployment benefits, after they have run out of regular, state-funded benefits.

In Washington, regular unemployment benefits last up to 26 weeks, then workers can receive up to 37 weeks of emergency benefits, which is divided into a series of three tiers.

Recipients of emergency jobless benefits in Washington state will see their weekly benefits reduced starting May 19, when they move from regular benefits onto emergency ones, or when they move from their current tier of emergency benefits to the next tier.

About 40,000 people in Washington are now receiving EUC or nearing the end of their regular unemployment benefits.

Since emergency unemployment compensation is a federal program, the sequester law requiring across-the-board reductions takes priority over the minimum weekly benefit established in Washington state law.

Therefore, people receiving the current minimum weekly benefit of $143 will be reduced to $112 when they move to the next EUC tier. The maximum weekly benefit is $604 for claims opened since July 2012.

Employment Security officials are using direct mail, email and robocalls to inform these individuals about the impending change. Information also is posted on the department’s website.

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