Some federal unemployment insurance payments to end

Some unemployed workers in Alaska are about to lose their unemployment insurance benefits thanks to federal legislation that ties the payments to a state’s unemployment rate.

Bill Kramer is chief of Unemployment Insurance for state Department of Labor. He says Alaska’s insured unemployment rate is below six percent, meaning residents are no longer eligible to file new claims for Tier 4 of the federal program. He says the federal changes include other provisions designed to encourage people collecting emergency unemployment insurance to find work.

“It’s mandated that they make an active job search every week, and that unemployed workers document their job search, and we will audit certain numbers of those works searches that are made by people,” says Kramer.

Congress implemented the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in 2008 as a way to extend benefits during the recession. It includes four tiers, varying from six to 20 weeks of additional payments.

Kramer says the latest extension of the program also requires the department to provide job search advice and assess the skills of people entering the federal emergency unemployment system for the first time, or applying for a new tier.

He says about 1,900 Alaskans are currently receiving Tier 4 emergency unemployment compensation, while about 1,500 residents are claiming Tier 3. Existing claims will continue to be paid until they are exhausted. Kramer says people receiving emergency federal unemployment are considered long-term job seekers.

“We’re relatively fortunate in Alaska. Our overall unemployment rate has not been as high as the rest of the nation,” Kramer says. “And fortunately, I think for Alaska as well, this change comes as we’re heading toward spring and it’s typically the highest employment season that we have in Alaska.”

Regular federal unemployment insurance and the first three tiers of the emergency program will continue to be available to Alaska residents. The change also does not affect state unemployment insurance payments, which are funded by employers and employees in Alaska through payroll deductions.

Alaska’s unemployed workers can now claim a maximum of 73 weeks unemployment insurance – state and federal payments combined.

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