60,000 here may lose emergency jobless benefits Dec. 29

OLYMPIA – Up to 60,000 people in Washington will be kicked off of unemployment benefits when the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program ends on Dec. 29, if the Congress and president don’t reach agreement in the ‘fiscal cliff’ talks, the state's Employment Security Department said Monday.

Since being activated in July 2008, the program has paid more than $5.6 billion in federally funded unemployment benefits to more than 407,000 jobless workers in this state, the department said.

During much of the recession, most unemployed workers could qualify for up to 99 weeks of benefits, including 26 weeks of regular benefits, 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) and 20 weeks of extended benefits – paid in that order.

Due to the state’s improved unemployment rate, extended benefits shut off last April, and congressional action has reduced emergency (EUC) benefits to a maximum of 37 weeks. After Dec. 29, only regular benefits will be available for most Washington workers.

Although Congress has extended the EUC program 10 times in the past four years, there’s currently no indication it will be reauthorized again. If Congress and the President approve another extension, Employment Security will automatically notify anyone who claimed EUC during one or more weeks in December.

Over the next few weeks, Employment Security will send emails, robocalls and direct mail to recipients reminding them the program is ending, the department said.