Washington State and the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program
You may be wondering how to get an unemployment extension in Washington, but at the current moment, there are no unemployment benefits extension programs which are active. Federal unemployment extension programs are usually only available during periods of extremely high unemployment, and the federal government will only enact a program if the state meets certain standards. In Washington, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program allowed unemployed workers to extend benefits past the normal 52-week mark, until the program ended in December 2013. Similarly, the Extended Benefits (EB) program, which also provided for unemployed workers in Washington, was made inactive by Congress in 2012.
The EUC unemployment extension program originated in response to the 2008 Great Recession, but as the economy recovered, Congress decided to end the program. To bring the program to life, the American Taxpayer Relief Act required the federal government to put nearly $6 billion of funds towards unemployment benefits. On average, most unemployment compensation extension recipients received an additional 17 weeks of benefits, but as of 2013, the average extension has been reduced to only five weeks. If you had wondered “How can I extend unemployment in Washington?” there was no need to worry about applying. In situations when extension programs were active, all beneficiaries who were eligible for extensions were automatically enrolled in the program.
A WA unemployment extension can only be granted if the federal government feels the current economic climate warrants it. The EUC program, when active, allows workers to extend their benefits based on a four-tier payment distribution system. States are automatically placed in a tier based on their unemployment levels:
• Tier One: Workers in all states are eligible for up to 14 additional weeks of benefits.
• Tier Two: Workers in states with an unemployment level of at least six percent are eligible for up to 14 additional weeks of benefits.
• Tier Three: A nine-week benefit extension is available to workers in states with an unemployment level of seven percent or higher.
• Tier Four: Seven additional weeks of benefits are available to workers in states with an unemployment level of at least nine percent.
Tax Laws and Washington Unemployment Benefits Extensions
If you are granted a federal unemployment extension in Washington, you will need to report all of your benefits to the Internal Revenue Service. Even though you are not employed, the government classifies any unemployment payments as taxable income, and you will need to record them on a 1099G tax form. Unemployed workers can pay taxes in two different ways:
• Estimate the amount of tax you will owe, and pay in quarterly installments throughout the year. If you choose this method, you will need to make timely payments four times a year, and you will be charged a penalty if you do not pay enough by each deadline.
• Have ten percent (or any amount you choose) of your benefits withheld each week for taxes.
Alternatives to Requesting a Washington Unemployment Extension
Since the Washington unemployment extension program is not currently in effect, there will be no way to extend your benefits if they run out. However, there are ways to start working again as quickly as possible. If you are not granted a federal unemployment extension, and you have difficulty finding a new job, consider the tips below:
• Accepting a job that does not pay as much, or that does not require your exact skill set may be temporarily beneficial. This is a last resort, but it can help you make ends meet until you can find the right job. If you need help finding work, do not hesitate to check with the Employment Security Department.
• Have you considered registering with a temp agency? Temporary staffing agencies help workers find temporary employment, and in many cases, these temporary jobs can become permanent.
• If you need to brush up on your interview or resume-writing skills, a career development course may be able to assist you. These courses are plentiful, and they are even offered by the state for free. If you are presently receiving benefits, the state will automatically give you job-search credit for attending a workshop.
• Both Washington State and the federal government make financial assistance programs available to low-income individuals. If you meet the criteria, the government may provide you with funds to purchase food or pay certain utility bills.