Alaska Extended Unemployment

The economic bad news seems unrelenting in many communities these days, causing some of Alaska’s long-term unemployed residents to wonder how long it will take to find a job that allows them to feel financially secure once again.

If you are newly unemployed, you can file for standard unemployment insurance benefits through the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Regular unemployment benefits typically last for a maximum of 26 weeks, but payments can continue longer for workers who are employed part-time or who receive partial benefits.

However, many job-seekers report they have been unable to find work long after those benefits have been exhausted, and the job outlook nationally continues to be bleak. If the jobless rate in a state is high enough, federal and state programs are available to provide long-term unemployment benefits to eligible residents who have been unable to find a job.

In Alaska, the seasonally adjusted total unemployment rate must be at least 8 percent before the state’s extended unemployment programs are launched. Alaska’s jobless rate reached this level in February 2011, triggering an extension of state benefits for up to seven additional weeks.

Extended benefits also are available through a federal program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation 2008, which establishes four tiers of extended unemployment eligibility. The program follows this schedule for extending jobless insurance payments: Tier 1, 20 weeks; Tier 2, 14 weeks; Tier 3, 13 weeks; Tier 4, six weeks. The first two tiers are not triggered by the unemployment rate.

Alaska had been providing three tiers of federal benefits to its jobless residents up until January 2011, when a higher unemployment rate allowed the state to begin offering all four levels of unemployment assistance.

As long as the state’s jobless rate remains high, Alaska’s residents will be eligible for extended unemployment benefits for the maximum allowable period under the law -- up to 99 weeks. If the unemployment rate dips below the mandated level, these extended benefits may be rolled back again.

Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development issues statewide news releases if additional extended benefit programs become available to residents. Whenever that happens, Alaskans who might be eligible for the programs are notified at their last address on record with the state.

Once these programs begin, job-seekers can apply online at: Select the link “Unemployment Insurance Benefits.” Claims also can be filed over the phone at these numbers: the Juneau office, 907- 465-5552; the Anchorage office, 907- 269-4700; the Fairbanks office, 907- 451-2871; or other locations, 888- 252-2557.

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