State losing 9 weeks of unemployment benefits

OLYMPIA — Washington state’s long-term unemployment benefits will decrease by nine weeks next month, state officials announced Wednesday.

Officials with the Employment Security Department said that the decrease was triggered because the three-month average of the state’s unemployment rate was below 7 percent.

Regular unemployment benefits last up to 26 weeks and are paid by the state. However, one long-term benefit program funded by the federal government currently lasts up to 37 weeks in Washington state and is triggered on and off by the state’s unemployment rate. The federal benefit will drop from 37 weeks to 28 weeks on Aug. 11.

In total, the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits will drop from 63 to 54 for most eligible workers. Officials estimate that approximately 26,000 unemployed workers will lose benefits by the end of the year.

The department said that about 114,000 people claimed either regular, emergency or extended benefits last month. More than 140,000 people in the state have exhausted all of their available unemployment benefits to date.

Those who are still unemployed and claiming long-term benefits will soon be receiving notices from the department informing them of the change. According to the Employment Security Department, more than $6 billion in emergency unemployment compensation has been paid to about 440,000 unemployed workers in Washington state since the program was activated in July 2008.

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