Up to 1,400 Whatcom County residents will have their unemployment benefits shut off as a result of a federal program coming to an end on Saturday, Dec. 29.
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, activated in July 2008, is scheduled to end later this month in Washington, impacting up to 60,000 state residents as well as other out-of-work people across the U.S.
Washington’s Employment Security Department is contacting out-of-work residents impacted by this change, said Sheryl Hutchinson, communications director for the agency.
“We are reaching out to those being impacted not just to let them know about the loss of benefits, but to also let them know about the resources at WorkSource (an agency that helps people find work),” said Hutchinson.
The ending of the federal program will reduce the maximum number of weeks for benefits from 37 weeks to 26 weeks. During much of the recession, most unemployed workers could qualify for up to 99 weeks of benefits. The emergency unemployment compensation program that supplied the extra weeks ended in April because of the state’s improved unemployment rate.
It is possible Congress could decide to extend the EUC program, which it has 10 times in the past four years, but there is no indication that will happen, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said the group of long-term unemployed workers has shrunk as the economy has improved and some have dropped out as benefits ended, but it’s still a substantial number losing benefits at the end of the year. Of particular concern to the ESD is that statistics indicate 70 percent of those who lose unemployment benefits still haven’t found work six months later, she said.
Since July 2008, the EUC program paid more than $5.6 billion in unemployment benefits to 407,000 jobless workers in Washington.
WorkSource will continue to offer a variety of workshops, skill assessments online courses, job counseling and other services to those seeking work. Details about WorkSource can be found at worksourcenorthwest.com.