The federal government shutdown that lasted for 16 days in October created an unintended consequence for thousands of jobless workers in Washington state: By contributing to a rise in joblessness, it led to the reactivation of nine weeks of long-term unemployment benefits, state officials said Monday.
The federal benefit, which is tied to the state jobless rate and called emergency unemployment compensation, will increase from 28 to 37 weeks starting Sunday, Washington’s Employment Security Department said.
State officials said jobless workers will receive nine additional weeks of benefits because Washington’s three-month average unemployment rate now is 7 percent.
Nationwide, emergency unemployment compensation is paid in a series of four tiers, with tiers 2 through 4 tied to a state’s jobless rate.
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Washington triggered off tier 4 in April after its three-month average fell below 9 percent. Its tier 3 benefits were turned off in August as joblessness dropped below 7 percent, but a slowdown in hiring since then has pushed the rate back up.
The change affects about 11,000 people who exhausted their tier 2 benefits after Aug. 10 and remain unemployed.
“It’s ironic that the federal shutdown contributed to the rise in our unemployment rate and caused these benefits to be reactivated,” Employment Security Commissioner Dale Peinecke said in a statement.
Jobless workers presently can receive up to 54 weeks of unemployment benefits: 26 weeks paid for by the state and 28 weeks paid by the federal government. They get a percentage of their previous wages, or anywhere from $143 to $624 weekly.
Washington’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent in August, declined to 6.9 percent in September and reached 7 percent again in October. The U.S. rate was 7.3 percent in October.
State officials said they’re using a combination of emails, robocalls and letters to tell people about the change in benefits, but they also warned that the entire emergency unemployment-compensation program ends Dec. 28, unless Congress approves an extension.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @amyemartinez