If you're receiving unemployment benefits, you might want to read up on the changes that will soon take hold. Since November of 2009, unemployed Americans have been able to collect unemployment benefits for 99 weeks. This was part of the large response by the Obama Administration to provide relief to those laid off, while helping to stem the sharp decline of the economy at that time. As a result, Americans have collected US$434 billion in unemployment benefits during the past four years.

Although the country as a whole may be slowly emerging from the recent recession, states are still under significant financial stress. Only a handful of states are not operating with a budget deficit, and states like Louisiana, Florida and Georgia face deficits of more than $2 billion. Because many states have depleted their unemployment insurance funds, it has become imperative that states reduce the amount of weeks that their citizens receive benefits.

Fifteen states don't allow seasonal workers to collect unemployment, and many more are considering this restriction as part of their cost cutting measures. Teachers are already restricted from collecting benefits, but contract workers like bus drivers are able to collect benefits in most states. States like Florida have made it more difficult to collect benefits. Since 2011, the state has required applicants to complete an application and skills test. These requirements can only be completed online which is a difficult task for those who can't afford Internet service. These impediments have sparked lawsuits claiming the process is too restrictive.

SEE: The Unemployment Rate: Get Real

The Changes
The changes are tied to each state's unemployment rate, and adjust benefits based on how it compares to the national average. States with unemployment rates below 6% will see benefits cease after 40 weeks. People living in states with rates around 6% will get no more than 54 weeks of checks. States near the national average, currently just above 8%, will receive 63 weeks and those living in states above 9% will get 73 weeks. Other changes will allow states to administer drug tests if an applicant lost his or her job due to refusing or failing a drug test. In addition, states can use federal funds to subsidize employment and implement other innovate programs. An example of such a plan is the Georgia Plan that places those who are unemployed in training positions in exchange for collecting checks.

What If My Benefits Are Being Cut?
First, go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and find your state's unemployment rate in order to get a basic idea of how many less weeks you'll receive. Then, contact your benefits office and ask how much longer you will receive benefits. Although these cuts apply to the Federal program that helped states provide extended benefits, your state is likely planning or has already made changes to its benefits period. For those legitimately unable to work due to disability, check your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

The Bottom Line
With the economy finally seeing a slow recovery, jobs are finally being created or positions refilled. While the latest jobs report was disappointing, America is still seeing a net increase in job creation each month. If your benefits are being cut in the not so distant future, taking a job that is below your skill level removes you from the ranks of the long-term unemployed, a sector that is finding it increasingly difficult to get hired. Once benefits run out, other than claiming disability, states aren't affording the unemployed many other options.

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    4 Key Indicators That Move The Markets

    Educated investors need to keep their finger on the pulse of the economy, and watching certain indicators is a good way to do that.
  2. Retirement

    How to Fix an Error on Your Social Security Check

    For many seniors, social security benefits checks are their income stream which means the benefit has to be correct. If you spot an error, you can fix it.
  3. Economics

    How The Unemployment Rate Affects Everybody

    Depending on how it's measured, the unemployment rate is open to interpretation. Learn how to find the real rate.
  4. Investing

    Is the Number of Workers in the U.S. Declining?

    The number of workers in the U.S. labor force is declining. What caused it and what is the solution?
  5. Taxes

    Payroll Taxes: Picking Apart Your Paycheck

    Here's what gets deducted from your pay, what your employer pays and where your payroll taxes actually end up.
  6. Investing

    How Labor Force Participation Rate Affects U.S. Unemployment

    While a falling unemployment rate sounds like a good thing, it can actually be indicative of people leaving the labor force because they can't find a job.
  7. Professionals

    Top Tips for the Recently Unemployed

    When a major life change such as a job loss comes up the advice and counsel of a trusted financial advisor can prove to be invaluable.
  8. Investing

    America’s Labor Market: Hidden Distortions and Uncertain Forecasts

    Employment reports released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have a profound impact on political, business, consumer, and investor behavior.
  9. Personal Finance

    No Paycheck Doesn't Necessarily Mean No Income

    If you lose your job, be sure to apply for unemployment benefits. It's not welfare, but an insurance program that you and your employer have already paid into.
  10. Economics

    Why Jobs Reports No Longer Predict the Fed

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report is thought to be one of the most important signals of major change in forthcoming U.S. monetary policy.
  1. What are the best free online calculators for calculating my taxable income?

    Free online calculators for determining your taxable income are located at Bankrate.com, TaxACT.com and Moneychimp.com. Determining ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What economic indicators are important to consider when investing in the retail sector?

    The unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rank as two of the most important economic indicators to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How does comprehensive income get reported on my 1040?

    As of 2015, on the standard IRS Form 1040, your comprehensive or total income is calculated through lines 7-22. This is different ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Why is the employment figure important to a "dove"

    The employment figure is important to doves, because they are primarily concerned with the health of the labor market. Doves ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculate the unemployment rate published ...

    The unemployment rate is one of the most closely followed indicators, used by businesses, investors and private citizens ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are some of the key shortcomings of how the U.S. unemployment rate is determined ...

    Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, announces the unemployment ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  2. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  3. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  4. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  5. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  6. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
Trading Center