Federal budget cuts slice into emergency unemployment benefits

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Emergency unemployment compensation will be reduced in Washington state due to the budget cuts under the federal sequestration law, state Employment Security Department officials said Wednesday.

The emergency compensation, which provides additional weeks of benefits to unemployed workers who run out of regular, state-funded benefits, will be reduced by about 21.1 percent, said spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison.

In Washington, regular unemployment benefits last up to 26 weeks, then workers can receive up to 37 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation, which is divided into a series of three tiers.

Beginning May 19, recipients will see their weekly benefits reduced when they move from regular benefits onto emergency unemployment compensation, or when they move from their current tier of emergency unemployment to the next tier.

Since emergency unemployment compensation is a federal program, the sequester law requiring across-the-board reductions takes priority over the minimum weekly benefit established in state law. Therefore, people receiving the current minimum weekly benefit of $143 will be reduced to $112 when they move to the next EUC tier. The maximum weekly benefit is $604 for claims opened since July 2012.

About 40,000 people in Washington are now receiving emergency unemployment compensation or are nearing the end of their regular unemployment benefits.

Employment Security officials are using direct mail, email and robocalls to inform these individuals about the impending change. Information also is posted on the department's website.