Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?
Workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment compensation program, although seven states provide fewer weeks and one provides more. Extended Benefits (EB) have triggered on in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional weeks of federal benefits are also available through March 2021.
The federal-state unemployment insurance (UI) system helps many people who have lost their jobs by temporarily replacing part of their wages. (See “Policy Basics: Unemployment Insurance.”) Under certain circumstances, unemployed workers who exhaust their regular state-funded unemployment benefits before they can find work can receive additional weeks of benefits.
Under the CARES Act responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, all states provided 13 additional weeks of federally funded Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUC) benefits to people who exhausted their regular state benefits, followed by additional weeks of federally funded EB in states with high unemployment (up to 13 or 20 weeks depending on state laws). Under the Act, some people who exhausted all these benefits, and many others who have lost their jobs for reasons arising from the pandemic but who were not normally eligible for UI in their state, were eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). COVID relief legislation enacted in December 2020 extended the availability of PUA and PEUC from the week ending December 26, 2020 to the week ending March 14, 2021 (with people receiving benefits on March 14 eligible to continue receiving any remaining benefits until April 5, 2021). The maximum number of weeks that could be paid was increased to 24 for PEUC and 50 for PUA.
The map below shows only the maximum number of weeks of regular plus EB benefits that are currently available in each state. It does not include the weeks of benefits that the pandemic-specific programs can add.
Of the states not providing the standard 26-week maximum:
- Massachusetts provides up to 30 weeks of UI except when a federal extended benefits program is in place (as it is now) or in periods of low unemployment (as was the case through February 2020), when the maximum drops to 26 weeks;
- Montana provides up to 28 weeks of UI;
- Michigan normally provides up to 20 weeks of UI, but in the COVID-19 emergency that has risen to 26 weeks;
- South Carolina and Missouri provide up to 20 weeks of UI.
- Arkansas provides up to 16 weeks of regular benefits.
The remaining six states periodically update their maximum weeks of UI available based on changes in the state’s unemployment rate:
- Idaho currently provides up to 22 weeks for new enrollees;
- Kansas was providing 16 weeks of UI before COVID-19, but that has been extended to 26 weeks through April 2021;
- Alabama currently provides up to 14 weeks of UI for new enrollees, with an additional five-week extension for those enrolled in a state-approved training program;
- Georgia was providing 14 weeks of UI, but in the COVID-19 emergency that has risen to 26 weeks;
- Florida currently provides up to 12 weeks of UI for existing claims and 19 weeks for claims filed after January 1, 2021; and
- North Carolina currently provides up to 12 weeks of UI to existing claimants and 16 weeks for claims filed after January 3, 2021.
The table below shows the latest three-month average unemployment rate for each state over October–December 2020, as well as the maximum number of weeks of benefits currently available through regular UI and EB. The number of weeks of EB in a state equals the smaller of 13 weeks or half the maximum number of weeks of regular UI in the state, unless the state has adopted an alternative trigger that adds up to seven more weeks when the state’s unemployment rate triggers on a High Unemployment Period (HUP) allowing up to 20 weeks of EB (but no more than 80 percent of the number of regular weeks the state provides). The HUP ended December 26 in states that enacted legislation adopting the alternative trigger through the end of 2020 to take advantage of full federal funding of EB. As a result, only New Jersey and New York remain in a HUP.
|Unemployment Rates and Weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) Available|
|State||Unemployment (3-month avg.)||Regular UI and extended benefits available*|
|District of Columbia||7.9||26+13 weeks|
|New Hampshire||4.0||26 weeks|
|New Jersey||8.6||26+20 weeks|
|New Mexico||7.8||26+13 weeks|
|New York||8.6||26+20 weeks|
|North Carolina||6.2||16 weeks|
|North Dakota||4.4||26 weeks|
|Puerto Rico||8.6||26+13 weeks|
|Rhode Island||7.5||26+13 weeks|
|South Carolina||4.4||20 weeks|
|South Dakota||3.4||26 weeks|
|Virgin Islands||12.4||26+13 weeks|
|West Virginia||6.3||26 weeks|