How Long Do Unemployment Benefits Last?

Although most states provide unemployment benefits for 26 weeks (or fewer), Congress sometimes authorizes further benefits during periods of high unemployment.

If you've lost your job, you are undoubtedly concerned about unemployment benefits. Unemployment compensation is a joint federal-state program, intended to provide some economic support for those who have temporarily lost their jobs, through no fault of their own. Generally, federal law determines the basics, while state law sets specifics such as who is eligible, how much applicants will receive, and for how long.

In normal economic times, most states offer unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. Ten states provide benefits for a shorter amount of time, while one state offers benefits for longer than 26 weeks.

In times of high unemployment, such as in the recession that started in 2008, the federal government might step in to supplement state programs and provide additional benefits. For example, in the years following 2008 an employee who was eligible for all benefits available under state and federal law could collect unemployment compensation for up to 99 total weeks. These extensions have since been discontinued.

To find current information, check the federal Department of Labor's Unemployment page.

Extended Benefits

An employee who has exhausted all state benefits might be able to apply for extended benefits. Extended benefits are a joint federal-state program that provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to eligible employees when state unemployment rates are high; states have the option of offering an additional 7 weeks of benefits (for a total of 20 weeks) when unemployment rates are extremely high.

At the moment, no states qualify for the extended benefits program based on their unemployment rates.

For More Information

To get detailed information on your state's rules, unemployment rates, eligibility requirements, and more, go to the website of your state's unemployment agency.

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