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 nine states provide fewer weeks, and two provide more. Extended Benefits (EB) are triggered on in two states. Additional weeks of pandemic federal benefits ended in all states on September 6, 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 received access to federal funding to provide additional weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUC) benefits to people who exhausted their regular state benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to many others who lost their jobs through no fault of their own but who were not normally eligible for UI in their state. These and other pandemic-related emergency UI programs ended nationwide the first weekend of September 2021, but many states stopped providing these federal benefits before that.
The map below shows the maximum number of weeks of regular plus EB benefits that are currently available in each state.
The two states providing more than the 26-week maximum are:
- Massachusetts, which reverted to providing up to 30 weeks of UI, effective September 5, 2021, (the maximum number of weeks is reduced to 26 when a federal extended benefits program is in place as it was during the pandemic, or in periods of low unemployment such as those immediately before the pandemic); and
- Montana, which provides up to 28 weeks of UI.
The states providing fewer than the standard 26-week maximum include:
- Arkansas, which provides up to 16 weeks of regular benefits;
- Michigan, which increased the maximum number of weeks to 26 earlier in the COVID-19 emergency but cut back to 20 weeks for new applicants in 2021; and
- South Carolina and Missouri, which provide up to 20 weeks of UI.
The remaining six states periodically update their maximum weeks of UI available based on changes in the state’s unemployment rate:
- 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 provides 14 weeks of UI, but in the COVID-19 emergency that has been increased to 26 weeks;
- Florida currently provides up to 12 weeks for claims filed after January 1, 2022;
- Idaho currently provides up to 20 weeks for new enrollees based on its November unemployment rate;
- Kansas currently provides up to 16 weeks of UI; and
- North Carolina currently provides up to 12 weeks for claims filed after January 1, 2022.
State laws in many states with a maximum of 26 weeks employ a sliding scale based on a worker’s earnings history to determine the maximum number of weeks for which an individual worker qualifies. Except in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico, many UI recipients’ maximum is fewer than 26 weeks.
The table below shows the latest three-month average unemployment rate for each state from September to November, 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). No state is currently in a HUP.
|Unemployment Rates and Weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) Available|
|State||Unemployment (3-month average)||Regular UI and extended benefits available|
|District of Columbia||6.3||26 weeks|
|New Hampshire||2.8||26 weeks|
|New Jersey||6.9||26+13 weeks|
|New Mexico||6.5||26+13 weeks|
|New York||6.9||26 weeks|
|North Carolina||4.1||12 weeks|
|North Dakota||3.3||26 weeks|
|Puerto Rico||8.0||26 weeks|
|Rhode Island||5.2||26 weeks|
|South Carolina||3.9||20 weeks|
|South Dakota||2.8||26 weeks|
|Virgin Islands||8.9||26 weeks|
|West Virginia||4.3||26 weeks|
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs. It is supported primarily by foundation grants.