Understanding Unemployment Insurance Extensions

In most times, applying for state unemployment benefit extensions can be difficult. Their availability will depend on the economic situation at the time.

Recipients of the Reemployment Assistance (RA) program (also known as unemployment compensation) often wonder how to get an unemployment extension before their eligibility period if over. This period usually lasts only 26 weeks at the most, under normal circumstances.

When UI enrollees exhaust their maximum benefit amount, they typically must wait before applying for another unemployment claim. However, unemployment benefits extensions are available to claim in certain situations. 

When unemployment compensation extensions become available, it is important for RA enrollees to know how the process works.

For more information on unemployment extensions, review the following sections:

  • When unemployment compensation extension plans activate
  • What to do when unemployment extensions are unavailable
  • What to do when an unemployment extension is available
  • Former and current unemployment benefits extensions and upcoming expectations

When Unemployment Compensation Extension Plans Activate

“What can I do to extend unemployment benefits?” is a question that many Unemployment Insurance participants have when nearing the end of their unemployment claim period.

An unemployment benefits extension is not always available for enrollees. Depending on the timing and circumstances, Reemployment Assistance participants may not be able to extend their benefits.

When activated, the federal unemployment extension provides eligible UI enrollees in all states with additional benefit weeks. 

The state agency is responsible for administering these unemployment compensation extension funds, as well as initial unemployment benefits.

However, the federal unemployment extension is only available during times when unemployment levels are particularly high.

Interested unemployment claimants must be aware that, even if extensions happen to be available, not all claimants qualify to have their unemployment benefits extended. Sometimes, who qualifies for an unemployment extension is based on each individual case.

Since initial unemployment benefits last for up to 26 weeks, it is in the best interest of each unemployment beneficiary to find new employment during that time frame if possible.

What to Do When Unemployment Extensions are Unavailable

Unemployment benefits extension unavailability is something that UI claimants should be aware of from the beginning.

The state unemployment agency should provide information on whether or not an unemployment compensation extension is available at any given time. If there is no benefits extension for unemployment available, the unemployment claimant may need to explore other means of assistance such as other financial assistance programs.

Unemployment extensions are not the only form of assistance available for unemployed residents.

Examples of other available programs include the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization Assistance Program, both of which can help unemployment claimants who are losing their benefits to lower their monthly bill payments.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash benefits to low-income residents.

What to Do When an Unemployment Extension Is Available

“How can I extend unemployment when extended benefits are available?” is an easily answerable question. All unemployment claimants who are eligible for an unemployment benefits extension will receive letters notifying them of their eligibility for lengthened benefits.

Unemployment claimants simply follow the instructions on the unemployment extension form to continue receiving their benefits. The number of additional weeks will be included on the form.

Unemployment claimants who believe they may be eligible for an unemployment compensation extension but do not receive a letter of automatic qualification should contact the state unemployment agency at least two weeks before their initial benefits run out.

Learn About Former and Current Unemployment Benefits Extensions

Currently, due to high unemployment levels from the COVID-19 virus, the Department of Labor is allowing states to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, for a total of 39 weeks.

Unemployment benefits extensions have provided additional UI weeks in previous years through various programs. One federal unemployment extension, Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), allowed some unemployment beneficiaries to claim up to 53 weeks.

This national unemployment extension was based on a tier system and available in all states when activated. After claimants exhausted each tier, some would be eligible for further financial assistance as part of the next tier. There were four tiers total.

The EUC program’s number of benefit weeks changed several times throughout its run, which officially ended on January 1, 2014.

Extended Benefits (EB) was a second unemployment extension program that was formerly available. EB was available in several states.

Residents who were eligible for EB, which ended in April of 2012, could receive 20 additional weeks of unemployment benefits if they qualified.

Likewise, during natural disasters affect businesses, employees and residents of, Disaster Unemployment Assistance may become available.

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