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Emergency unemployment benefits to become more restricted

Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which pays benefits when regular unemployment payments expire, will be reduced to 14 weeks from the current 20 weeks starting next month.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: August 21, 2012
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Some extended federal unemployment benefits are about to change, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Monday.

Beginning Sept. 3, the maximum number of weeks an unemployment benefit recipient can collect on an Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier 1 claim will drop to 14 weeks from 20 weeks.

About 2,500 Oklahomans apply for those Tier 1 benefits each month, said John Carpenter, spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Barring action from Congress, payment on all Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims will end Jan. 6 after the legislation authorizing those benefits expires at year's end.

The change is part of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation reauthorization legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December.

Policymakers “could reauthorize the program, but I don't know what the attitude of Congress is about it,” Carpenter said.

The extended benefits were established in July 2008 to help the long-term unemployed as they continued to look for work in the wake of the recession.

Unemployment claimants are first eligible for up to 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. When these regular benefits are exhausted, claimants can receive a round of emergency benefits.

Second-tier and third-tier Emergency Unemployment Compensation were previously available, but both triggered off in June. Availability of those benefits were tied to a state's average three-month unemployment rate staying at 6 percent or higher. Oklahoma's average has been below 6 percent since May.