Alaska’s long-term unemployed to see a reduction in benefits

As federal agencies are beginning to lay off employees and close offices in Alaska, the long-term unemployed in Alaska are about to see a reduction in their unemployment benefits.

In Alaska, the state provides up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Then, people can apply for federal benefits, which are organized into tiers based on how many weeks the person’s been jobless Bill Kramer is chief of the unemployment insurance program for the state of Alaska. He says the federal spending cuts required under the Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011, will affect people as they move through the system:

“For all new emergency unemployment compensation claims or for people transitioning from one tier of benefits to the next tier of benefits on or after May 19, the weekly benefit amount will be reduced by 23.92 percent.”

The budget cuts won’t affect the state’s 26-week program. They apply to the 37 weeks of federally funded assistance people can apply for after their state benefits run out. Kramer says the state has sent out letters to about 14,000 Alaskans who are expected to be affected:

“The average weekly benefit amount is $245 per week, so under the sequestration cut that would reduce that weekly benefit amount to about $186 per week.”

George Lamont says he hasn’t been able to find another job after getting laid off last year from his job as tribal administrator for the village of Tuluksak. He says his family has already cut out all non-essential spending, so it’s hard to figure out how to handle the coming reduction:

“It’s going to affect me in a lot of ways. It’ll be harder for me to purchase fuel or get enough fuel, plus of a lot of other things that are necessities.”

Kramer says the state operates 23 job centers offering employment services, as well as a labor exchange website where employers post jobs and unemployed people can search for work, and post their resumes’ online.