Filing deadline for jobless benefits extended to Feb. 28

Federal action to extend the ending date for federally-funded unemployment benefits means that thousands of jobless Michigan workers will be able to stretch out their entitlement to unemployment benefits.

Instead of the federally-funded benefits expiring on December 31, the date has been extended by two months to February 28, 2010, Stephen Geskey, director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), said. This is great news for the many unemployed in Michigan who may have seen their entitlement to additional benefits end next week.

Had Congress not extended the expiration date, then workers would only have been able to draw out their remaining benefit entitlement from the program they were in as of December 31. They would not have been able to move into the next tier of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) once they exhausted their current benefits.

Some 470,000 unemployed workers in Michigan are currently receiving unemployment benefits. Included in the total are 70,000 long-term unemployed who may have qualified for up to 20 weeks of benefits through the recent EUC extension that was approved in November.

These 70,000 jobless Michigan workers, if otherwise eligible, will now be able to collect up to the full 20 weeks the EUC extension provided in Michigan, Geskey said. Whereas before Congress moved the expiration date to February, these unemployed men and women would have exhausted their first 14 weeks of the November extension in February and not qualified for the last six weeks of EUC before the original December 31 expiration date.

Those now collecting unemployment benefits do not need to take any additional action. Geskey said they should continue to report using MARVIN by telephone or online to claim benefit payments as usual. Not every EUC tier requires an application. UIA notifies the unemployed by mail when they need to file an application for these benefits or when they automatically qualify for the next EUC Tier.

The newly approved federal legislation continues the EUC program and its four tiers of benefits. They are:

EUC Tier I " began in July 2008 and provides up to 20 weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits, once a person exhausts state benefits.

EUC Tier II " began in November 2008 and provides up to 14 weeks of federally funded benefits after a person exhausts EUC Tier I.

EUC Tier III " became effective November 8, 2009, and provides up to 13 weeks of federally funded EUC benefits after a person exhausts EUC Tier II.

EUC Tier IV is also effective November 8, 2009, and provides up to six weeks of EUC benefits after a person exhausts Tier III. It is payable in Michigan because the state TMs high unemployment state.

In addition to continuing the EUC program, the legislation maintains the extra $25 per week in Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) that is added to each individual TMs benefit payment. The FAC payment boosts the maximum weekly benefit amount in Michigan from $362 to $387.

It also continues the 100 percent federal funding for the Extended Benefit (EB) program, which allows up to 20 additional weeks of jobless benefits in Michigan to those who exhaust all of their state and federal EUC unemployment benefits.

Some unemployed workers in Michigan now have a potential of receiving up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, which includes 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits, 53 weeks of EUC and 20 weeks of EB.