Unemployment benefits will end for many

Dec. 28 looms for 25,000 in state, 1,007 in county

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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The state Employment Security Department said Thursday an estimated 25,000 jobless workers, including 1,007 in Clark County, will get cut off from unemployment insurance benefits when a federal program ends on Dec. 28.

Currently, up to 63 weeks of jobless benefits are available in Washington state, including 26 weeks of regular benefits and 37 weeks of federally funded emergency unemployment benefits. Although Congress has extended the federal program 11 times in the past five years, there's "no indication it will be reauthorized again," the state Employment Security Department said in a news release.

Indeed, the $85 billion budget deal Congress reached this week to avoid another government shutdown does not include an extension of federal unemployment benefits.

That would affect 1.3 million people in the U.S., according to The Los Angeles Times, which cites data from the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit research group that advocates for low-wage workers.

In Washington state, the Employment Security Department says it will use email, robocalls and direct mail to remind those receiving federally funded jobless benefits that the program shuts down Dec. 28. After that date, only regular benefits will be available for most Washington workers.

In its notifications to those receiving federally funded benefits, the state will urge jobless workers to contact their local WorkSource office for assistance in finding employment. The Employment Security Department said two studies have shown that people who use WorkSource job-search services tend to find jobs faster and earn more money than those who don't use those services. In Clark County, people may call the WorkSource office in Vancouver at 360-735-5000. Contact information for WorkSource offices statewide is available at http://www.wa.gov/esd/wsdirectory_local.htm#southwestwda.

If Congress and President Obama sign off on another federal benefits extension, the Employment Security Department will automatically notify potentially eligible individuals, the department said Thursday.

Since being activated in July 2008, the program has paid about $6.3 billion in federally funded unemployment benefits to more than 452,000 jobless workers in Washington state.