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  • Finding work in our current economy is far from a certain thing, especially in Pennsylvania with its 7.5 percent unemployment rate and jobs migrating to regions and countries with lower salaries and more accommodating tax codes. For this reason unemployed workers need as much unemployment benefits as possible to help them find work. Currently the maximum amount of benefits a worker can get on state unemployment benefits is 26 weeks. After 26 weeks all state unemployment benefits expire.

    Federal Unemployment Benefits

    However, up until January, 31, 2012, the federal unemployment benefits first launched by President Bush in 2008 and extended in February 2010 by President Obama until the week of 25th to 31st, December 2011, continue to provide financial assistance to Pennsylvania workers. Federal assistance includes the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and the Extended Benefits program. Together these two programs provide a maximum of 73 weeks, 53 weeks in the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and  20 weeks with the Extended Benefits program. The Emergency Unemployment Program in Pennsylvania is divided into four tiers. The first tier has 20 weeks, the second 14 weeks, the third 13 weeks and the fourth 6 weeks. The deadline for applying for any of the tiers is the same, the 31st of December 2011.

    This brings the total amount of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, if you include state unemployment insurance and both federal programs. Is this all an unemployed worker can hope to receive in unemployment benefits? In most cases the answer is yes. However, if you worked for an employer who was forced to lay you off because of competition from a foreign product or service, you may be able to apply for trade readjustment allowances from the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. This program provides financial assistance, free training and even relocation to an are with a lower unemployment rate for workers who have been affected by foreign imports.

    Payments under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program are funded by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, but are managed by each state individually. If you think you may qualify for this program, you can apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and request assistance. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program can offer help to workers even after their unemployment benefits have expired.

    So, which should you choose: federal emergency unemployment compensation and extended benefits payments or the trade readjustment allowances? It depends. In some cases trade readjustment allowances provide longer and more generous payments and benefits, while in other cases the fixed payments and well-understood methods used to calculate and manage emergency unemployment compensation program provide a better deal for workers. Contact your local unemployment office and request information on the best option for you.

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