Washington State unemployment benefits extended

The state’s unemployed got some good news from the “other Washington” Nov. 21 as President Bush signed legislation to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits.

“There’s never a good time to be unemployed, but job conditions are especially difficult right now. I applaud Congress for moving so quickly to approve this additional income assistance for our unemployed workers,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire.

When first approved in June, the program provided up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to people who have used up their regular benefits, are still unemployed and meet other qualifications. The president’s signature expands the program to allow a total of up to 33 weeks of benefits for eligible claimants.

Initial applications for the program may be submitted to the state Employment Security Department through March 28, 2009, and approved claims can be paid through Aug. 29, 2009. Employment Security will begin notifying individuals who qualify for the program. People are asked to avoid calling or e-mailing the department so that staff can focus on processing current benefit claims as quickly as possible. Statewide, unemployment claims are 50 percent higher than last year.

“These additional unemployment benefits are very welcome to people all over our state who are trying to stay afloat in this economy,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee.

People currently receiving EUC benefits do not need to file a new application. People who have stopped claiming benefits should wait until they receive written information from Employment Security before reapplying. Anyone whose EUC original benefits ran out cannot receive extended EUC benefits for any weeks prior to the week beginning Nov. 23.

The first payable week for the additional extended EUC benefits will be the week ending Nov. 29. For new information, people are encouraged to check http://www.esd.wa.gov .