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  • Several of our readers have sent us some new questions we have yet to cover on this website. These are real-life situations which deal with questions and problems you may also be struggling with. If you don’t find the answer to your query, tell us about your problem in the comment section below.

    My job will be eliminated in 2011 and I will apply for PA unemployment.  I currently receive a Social Security check.  Will my social security payments disqualify me for unemployment compensation?

    Not necessarily. However, the details depend on your personal circumstances. For instance, if you are receiving social security because you are unable to work, then you would not qualify for unemployment benefits. One of the requirements to receive unemployment benefits is you are fit and able to work. Yet, if you are receiving social security benefits lawfully to complement your income while you are working, there should  be no conflict with your PA UC. Nevertheless, because the answer to this question depends on your particular situation, we recommend you call the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry at 717-787-5279 for more information.

    Social security and unemployment compensation are separate issues. If your income during you base period (the year before your first claim for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation) is enough to qualify you for benefits and you were laid off due to no fault of your own, you should have no problem with your claim

    My employer has informed me that due to a lack of work she will have to carry out intermittent layoffs, where I will be employed and laid off sporadically. Can I still apply for UC benefits?

    Yes. File for unemployment benefits the moment you are first laid off. File your biweekly benefits normally and stop filing when you are employed again. If you are laid off again re-open your claim by using the new claim application on the Pennsylvania Labor and Industry website. You can also download a paper form here or phone 1-888-313-7284. Once you reopen a claim you do not have a waiting week and can start filing biweekly claims immediately.

    Your claim application will be assessed as any other, regardless of how long you expect to be unemployed. It is important the reason you are laid off is not due to any fault of your own. Also, if your employer reduces your hours because of lack of work, you may qualify for partial benefits. More on that in our next article.

    In our previous article we discussed the maximum number of weeks you could receive in regular PA-state funded benefits and the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. In PA that amounts to a maximum 79 weeks This is not the end of the unemployment compensation system in PA. Due to the increase in the unemployment rate in the last two years, the state of Pennsylvania qualifies for the Extended Benefits program, EB.

    The Program

    The EB is a federal and state program, usually supported on a 50/50 basis. It provides long-term unemployed workers with a maximum of 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to aid them find work. If you received 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits you will receive the maximum 13 weeks. However if you only qualified for 16 weeks of regular UC, then you can apply for a maximum OF 8 weeks.

    What triggers the EB program?

    The EB program is triggered in a state after the third week its unemployment rate is above a predetermined level, for instance, 8.5 percent. Unemployed workers must have run out of regular state unemployment compensation and EUC, Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

    What triggers-off the EB program?

    Similarly, once a state’s unemployment rate declines below a predetermined level the EB program is cancelled. Once an EB period ends, a new one can’t start until after 14 weeks have gone by.

    What requirements must I meet to qualify for the EB program?

    – You must be partially or completely unemployed.

    – Your total income during the base year of your most recent claim must be at least one and a half times the income you earned in your highest earning quarter. For instance, if you earned $5,000 during your high-earning quarter, you must have earned at least $7,500 during the entire base period.

    – You must have exhausted EUC and regular state-provided benefits.

    – You must be both able and willing to work. This is an area where the EB program has more stringent requirements. An unemployed worker on Extended Benefits must provide evidence of at least two work search activities per week on different days. Proof involves providing information on the company you visited, who you spoke to and a report of the results of the interview.

    – You must not turn down suitable job offered through the PA CareerLink program. A suitable job is described as one you are qualified and fit to do, and one where you at least receive the weekly benefits for the state or federal programs.

    This is a question we get asked often from our readers, and for good reason. The unemployment insurance system is far from straightforward. In fact, it is not one system but at least three systems (but sometimes only two) which vary depending on the state you live in. This article will not only focus on answering “How many weeks of unemployment can I get in PA in 2011?” but also tackle how many weeks you can get from each unemployment program.

    Regular State-Funded Unemployment Compensation

    The Pennsylvania regular unemployment compensation, UC, program provides unemployed workers with a maximum of 26 weeks. This is the most you will receive within any one year from filing your initial unemployment claim. So, if you file for unemployment the 1st of June and you have already used your 26 weeks you will not have any more unemployment weeks for 2011. This year period is not calendar year of January to December. It starts whenever you claim for unemployment. To qualify again for PA state-funded unemployment after you have used up your maximum number of UC weeks, you would need to start working for a registered employer, meet the financial and legal requirements of the PA Unemployment Office and reapply.

    Fortunately for long term unemployed workers, the PA state-funded UC program is not the only unemployment compensation program available.

    EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation)

    This program was extended in December 2010 and will continue up to December 24, 2011. The program has different formats depending on the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate. States with an unemployment rate higher than 6 and 8.5 percent qualify for tiers 3 and tiers 3 and 4 respectively. As long as Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remains above 8.5 percent it will qualify for the maximum 53 weeks of benefit. However, this does not mean you will receive the total 53 weeks. How many weeks you get in PA in 2011 from the EUC also depends on the number of weeks you qualified for under the state-funded regular UC program.

    Unemployed workers who qualified for the 26 weeks of UC can receive the maximum 53 weeks. However, unemployed workers who only received 16 weeks of regular UC, will receive a maximum of 12.8 weeks in tier 1, 8,6 weeks in tier 2, 8 weeks in tier 3 and 3.8 weeks in tier 4, which amounts to a maximum of 34 weeks.

    How many weeks of unemployment you get in PA for 2011 will depend on your income and UC contributions during the year before you file your claim. The maximum unemployment weeks between regular UC and EUC is 79 weeks, plus the EB, Extended Benefits, program which we will discuss in our next article.

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