Since the coronavirus pandemic rocked the US in early spring, the economy has struggled to recover millions of lost jobs while out-of-work Americans have struggled to pay bills. For these individuals, unemployment insurance is vital to staying afloat while looking for employment.
The CARES Act offered a lifeline to unemployed workers through enhanced unemployment payments and extending benefits eligibility to 59 weeks. If you lost your job, the duration you can receive benefits is based on your state.
How Long Can I Receive Regular State Unemployment Benefits?
Many states offer a maximum of 26 weeks if you fulfill the qualification criteria and prove you are actively seeking employment. However, some offer much less. These states include:
- Idaho (22 weeks)
- Missouri and South Carolina (20 weeks)
- Arkansas (16 weeks)
- Alabama (14 weeks, plus an additional five if you register for a state-approved training course)
- Florida and North Carolina (12 weeks)
North Carolina lawmakers approved a measure that gives recipients an extra $50 per week from September 6 to December 26. These payments are retroactive.
One thing to note is that in these states, you don’t only have fewer weeks to receive regular unemployment benefits, but you also have less time to receive extended benefits from the federal government too.
What Federal Unemployment Benefits Can I Receive?
Congress included the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program in the CARES Act to give 13 more weeks of unemployment insurance to Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic and depleted their state benefits. Unless lawmakers renew it, the PEUC will expire on December 31, 2020.
In states experiencing high unemployment levels, PEUC payments can be supplemented with an extra 13 to 20 weeks of federal unemployment insurance. All together, eligible recipients can receive up to 59 weeks of benefits depending on their state.
Independent contractors, gig workers, and other self-employed individuals can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which allows them to receive regular unemployment benefits during the pandemic. This program offers a maximum of 39 weeks.
How Many Weeks Of Extended Benefits Does Each State Provide?
Under the PEUC, individuals in any state who have used their regular unemployment benefits can receive extended insurance benefits for 13 more weeks. However, these extra extended payments must be equivalent to the lesser of 13 weeks or half the whole number of weeks of regular state unemployment. In other words, states that provide fewer weeks for standard benefits will also have fewer weeks for extended unemployment.
Additionally, states can choose to implement extended benefits based on their employment levels, which could offer as much as seven extra weeks of payments if the state’s unemployment rate reaches a specific threshold. This would give recipients a maximum of 20 weeks in addition to regular unemployment and PEUC.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides a list of states where recipients can receive as many as 59 weeks of benefits. These include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
These states provide 26 weeks for regular insurance, 13 weeks for PEUC, and a 20-week limit for extended benefits.
Right now, 24 states provide 26 weeks for regular state insurance, 13 weeks for PEUC, and up to 13 weeks for extended insurance for a total of 52 weeks. These include:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
Residents living in Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands can also receive the same benefits.
In Montana, qualifying residents can receive benefits for as long as 54 weeks because it offers an extra two weeks of state benefits.
South Carolina provides a maximum of 43 weeks (20 weeks for regular benefits, 12 weeks for PEUC, and ten weeks for extended insurance).
If you live in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, you can get up to 39 weeks if you receive 26 weeks of regular benefits and 13 weeks for PEUC.
Florida and North Carolina residents can receive a total of 31 weeks, with 12 weeks of state benefits, 13 weeks of PEUC, and six weeks of extended payments.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that these states provide regular unemployment benefits and PEUC but do not offer extended payments:
- Idaho (35 weeks)
- Missouri (33 weeks)
- Arkansas (29 weeks)
- Alabama (27 weeks)
Enhanced Unemployment Benefits
The $600 weekly unemployment payments were a keynote feature in the CARES Act. After these benefits expired over the summer, President Trump passed an executive action to start the Lost Wages Assistance program, which used funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide an additional $300 in state unemployment benefits for six weeks. However, the program expired on September 5, and no further benefits have been confirmed.
- Barrett, Jennifer. “How Long Do Extended Unemployment Benefits Last? A State-By-State Guide.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Oct. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferbarrett/2020/10/26/how-long-do-extended-unemployment-benefits-last-a-state-by-state-guide/.