What is an Unemployment Extension?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2020
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People laid off a job may be able to collect unemployment benefits in the US. These short-term benefits, usually lasting no more than 26 weeks (and sometimes significantly less) can help to tide workers over until they find a new job. Yet what if finding that job is difficult because of high unemployment rates? Under these circumstances the government can decide to create a temporary unemployment extension allowing people a few more weeks of looking for work while still collecting unemployment checks.

Wouldn’t people abuse an unemployment extension by not going back to work until the extension ran out? Actually, this is not the case and there are a few reasons why. Unemployment benefits aren’t the same as drawing a paycheck from your last job. The amount is a percentage of your previous salary, and you must show proof that you are looking for work. Moreover, most people can’t afford to remain unemployed, since an unemployment extension doesn’t come with benefits like health insurance.

Though the federal government may issue an unemployment extension, some states can also decide to increase the length of time of benefits paid when economic times are difficult. In the past, states have on occasion extended benefits for several additional weeks. Most unemployment extension laws passed by the federal government grant an additional 13 weeks of benefits, but states may decide to add to this by including up to seven more weeks of benefits.


One thing that an unemployment extension tends to signify is that the economy has taken a downturn. Jobs are harder to find and employment rates are lower. A few times in recent history, the US Congress has asked for this extension to help people who are still looking for work after exhausting their standard benefits. This was the case in 2008, when the unemployment rate in the US rose to 6.1%. In August 2008, President George W. Bush enacted a temporary extension of benefits not to exceed 13 weeks, to help workers struggling in a difficult economy.

If you are currently unemployed and need to seek unemployment benefits in the US, the place to start is your State Unemployment Insurance Agency. This agency can also let you know if there is any extension to your current benefits that may apply. Note that not all people will be available for an unemployment extension or to collect unemployment at all.



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