What You Need To Know About Extended Unemployment Programs

The last eight months have been difficult for Americans, and the financial burden many face makes it even more challenging. Although federal support is limited, unemployment insurance is still there for individuals who have temporarily or permanently lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

Suppose your unemployment payments are gone, or you’re concerned that they will soon run out. In that case, the federal government offers extended benefits that can give you additional benefits besides your state’s maximum number of weeks.

Who Can Receive Enhanced Unemployment Benefits?

Typically, many states provide 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. However, some offer less. Montana stands as the only state to provide over 28 weeks of compensation to unemployed workers.

During periods of high unemployment, the federal government offers states funding to continue giving jobless benefits for a more extended time. When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, it expanded the unemployment program to allow more people to participate. This includes independent contractors, gig workers, the self-employed, and those who have been unemployed for an extended term and depleted their benefits.

To learn more about your state’s unemployment program or to find housing, food, healthcare, and other support, visit the Department of Labor’s Economy Recovery page.

How many Weeks Of Unemployment Insurance Can You Receive?

Those who lost their jobs are eligible for as many as 52 and 59 weeks of unemployment benefits. However, the maximum number of weeks is based on geography, the state unemployment rate, extended unemployment benefits, and qualifications. These resources account for a mix of unemployment benefit programs, such as extended compensation, a weekly bonus check, and a higher maximum on the number of weeks you can receive assistance.

Basic Unemployment Insurance

Eligible recipients will qualify for state unemployment insurance (for those employed with a company) or pandemic unemployment benefits (for independent contractors or those otherwise exempt from the regular program). Both offer a maximum of 26 weeks, depending on the state.

Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment recipients are eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits, which includes:


  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) gave recipients an extra $600 every week on top of standard benefits. This program expired over the summer.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an extra 13 weeks of compensation, bringing the total number of weeks recipients can receive aid to 39
  • Extended Unemployment Benefits (EB), which provides an extra 13 weeks of payments when the state reports a high period of unemployment. Additionally, several states have implemented an optional program to give as much as seven more weeks of EB for a total of 20 weeks when the unemployment rate is exceptionally high.
  • Federal Supplemental Payment, which gives recipients an extra $300 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)


Altogether, you could receive anywhere from 52 to 59 weeks of unemployment compensation through these programs, depending on where you live, your state’s unemployment level, and if you meet the requirements.


CARES Act Expanded Unemployment Programs

The $600 weekly bonus was a defining provision in the CARES Act, though it expired on July 31. However, unemployed workers can seek Unemployment Extended Benefits through December 31, 2020. Under this program, every state gives an additional 13 weeks of PEUC to those who have depleted their UI insurance and are able, available, and continuously looking for work. However, claimants do not have to meet the “looking for work” criteria because of the pandemic. 

Extended Unemployment Benefits

If you have depleted your unemployment insurance, the state and federal government can offer further assistance during the pandemic. On top of PEUC payments for individuals who run out of standard state insurance, the Extended Benefits (EB) program can extend the number of weeks recipients can receive help.

EB gives unemployed Americans between 13 and 20 additional weeks of payments, though it varies based on state regulations and unemployment levels. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers a diagram of which states provide extended unemployment benefits.

How To Receive Extended Unemployment Benefits

Like the maximum number of weeks, you can receive extended unemployment insurance, how you receive this compensation also depends on your state government. While some states don’t require recipients to take any further measures, others need you to apply. To determine your state’s rules, contact your state unemployment department. The Department of Labor CareerOneStop Unemployment Benefits Finder offers a list of contact details for each state’s agency. 

If you receive unemployment benefits right now but want to enroll in the EB program, you will need to contact your state’s unemployment agency. If you qualify for these benefits, the state office will inform you how to get the additional payments once your regular insurance ends.

If you have reached your maximum weeks of eligibility, you also have a chance to receive EB. Visit your state unemployment agency’s website, or call, to learn how you can qualify. 


  • Doyle, Alison. “Extended Unemployment Benefit Programs.” The Balance Careers, 15 Oct. 2020, www.thebalancecareers.com/unemployment-insurance-extended-benefit-programs-4802217.