With unemployment rising quickly in 2008 then President George Bush signed a
bill to approve the extension of federal
unemployment compensation. That meant
that the federal government would continue to provide money to dislocated
workers who had exhausted their state benefits. The federal government breaks
down levels of assistance into “tiers”. We started hearing about the “99ers”;
people would qualify for 99 weeks of compensation. Many people wrongly assumed
that anyone who was unemployed would receive 99 weeks of benefits. There are
three important things to know about
federal unemployment tiers and extended
The first thing you
want to understand is the number of tiers and the number of weeks assigned to
tier. As of this writing in May 2011
there were 4
tiers, that are scheduled to be in effect,
based on your state's
unemployment rate, until
January 3, 2012. Here are
the numbers of weeks assigned to each Emergency Unemployment
EUC Tier I is for up to 20 additional weeks if you have exhausted regular UC
benefits. This level is contingent on the phase out deadlines.
EUC Tier II is for up to 14 additional weeks and is contingent only on the phase
EUC Tier III is for up to 13 additional weeks if your state’s previous 3 month
average is 6% or higher.
EUC Tier IV is for up to 6 additional weeks if your state’s previous 3 month
average is 8.5% or higher.
This means that if you have exhausted your 26 weeks of state
benefits you are eligible to begin Tier 1 which would provide you up to 20 more
additional weeks of compensation.
The second important factor is your own state’s unemployment rate. The reason
you keep seeing the words “up to” is because these additional weeks of
compensation are contingent on your state’s
unemployment rate, not
just the country’s
unemployment rate. You will be eligible for fewer tiers as your state's
unemployment rate falls. Key milestones are at or above 8.5%, 6%-8.4%, and below
6%. For example, tiers will begin to phase out in your state as the unemployment
rate moves from to 8.4% to and 5.9%. For example,
announced on March 14, that the three month average
had fallen to 8.4%, thus the 6 weeks of
Tier 4 benefits
were being eliminated as of April 2, 2011.
Thirdly, note that federal emergency unemployment benefits (EUC) are paid before
extended benefits (EB) are paid. EUC is a federal initiative. EB is a
state initiative. If you have been unemployed long enough to exhaust your
initial state benefits and then the various federal
tiers of EUC, you may
extended benefits through your state.
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry explained it this way in
February 2011, “The Pennsylvania UC Law was recently amended to increase the
maximum amount of EB a claimant may receive if Pennsylvania enters a ‘high
unemployment period,’ or HUP. A HUP occurs when Pennsylvania’s total
unemployment rate reaches 8 percent.
unemployment rate has
risen to the level necessary to create a HUP.”