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. Economics

    Is the U.S. Economy Ready for Liftoff?

    The Fed continues to delay normalizing rates, citing inflation concerns and “global economic and financial developments” in explaining its rationale.
  2. Home & Auto

    How Much Money Do You Need to Live in NYC?

    Learn how much money you need to meet basic expenses in New York City as a student, as a professional and as an unemployed job seeker.
  3. Entrepreneurship

    5 Signs You’re About To Be Fired

    Often the signs of an imminent firing are subtle. Keep these five in mind.
  4. Investing

    Did the Fed Miss its Window to Raise Rates?

    The debate in the media over whether the Federal Reserve will announce liftoff this month or in December continues to rage on.
  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 News

    3 Stocks to Play a Falling Unemployment Rate

    Three stocks to consider as the unemployment rate falls.
  7. Home & Auto

    How Much Money Do You Need to Live in Alaska?

    Learn the average costs for necessities in Alaska, and understand how much money you need to live as a student, professional and unemployed job seeker.
  8. Entrepreneurship

    The Top 5 Under-the-Radar Cities for Job Seekers

    Don't be misled by 'Top 10' lists that rank cities purely on job growth. These cities get top marks for income growth and other key factors.
  9. Home & Auto

    How Much Money Do You Need to Live in Las Vegas?

    Learn how much it costs to live in Las Vegas and how that amount varies based on whether you are a student, a professional or an unemployed job-seeker.
  10. Economics

    Leading Economic Indicators: U.S. Bureau of Labor Monthly Stats

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly employment figures are a key economic indicator. Here's how they work.
  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. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  2. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  3. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  4. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  5. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  6. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!