Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Unemployment extension 101: what you need to know

The Senate passed an unemployment extension Wednesday evening. Who is eligible? Is it retroactive to June 2? When will the checks be in the mail? We cover the basics.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / July 22, 2010

Eric Bilderback, left, holds his resume as he talks with Mike Watson, a business employment specialist at WorkSource Oregon July 20, in Portland, Ore. The U.S. Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would extend unemployment benefits for an estimated 2.5 million Americans.

Rick Bowmer/AP Photo


On Wednesday, after weeks of grueling legislative battle, the US Senate has approved a fourth extension of unemployment insurance benefits. It will cost about $34 billion and help 2.5 million people who lost their unemployment benefits on June 2, when the last extension expired.

Skip to next paragraph

The legislation adds a new wrinkle, allowing temp work without a future reduction of benefits, but it took away an extra $25 that went to the unemployed as part of the stimulus act. The bill still needs to be voted on by the House, expected by midday Thursday. Then, President Obama is expected to sign the legislation. Here are some basics about the legislation:

Who is eligible?

Basically, anyone is eligible who has not yet finished all the tiers of unemployment insurance. It will help people who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, which is the period when state benefits end. However, the length of time of the federally funded unemployment benefit varies by state depending on how severe the unemployment is in each state.

For example, in the Dakotas and Nebraska, where unemployment is low, unemployment insurance is good for only 60 weeks. In places like Michigan, California, and Nevada, where there are more jobless, the benefit is up to 99 weeks.

Who is not eligible?

This bill will not add any additional weeks of benefits for people who have already exhausted their unemployment, a group of people sometimes called the “99ers” because they have already collected 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.

Is it retroactive?

Yes, it will be retroactive to June 2, when the last extension expired. This means some 2.5 million people will get lump-sum checks. However, the checks will not be as large as they had been because the Senate stripped out the $25 per person that had been added as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

When will the checks be mailed?