I usually talk to more than a dozen unemployed callers on the phone each week about their unemployment insurance benefits. Perhaps the most common question I receive is about how long they will receive benefits and what amount they will receive. Weekly unemployment insurance benefits are paid to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The states have administrative agencies charged with investigating unemployment insurance claims and appeals and ultimately make the decision about whether or not workers are entitled to benefits. To determine whether you will be entitled to benefits, take a look some of my previous posts or contact me directly.
Currently in Wisconsin, workers are entitled to as many as 86 weeks of unemployment benefits. That's 60 weeks more than are allowed under typical circumstances (26 weeks or 6 months is the "base period"). However, due to federal legislative intervention, extended benefits, emergency benefits, and other benefit enhancements have been helping workers get back on their feet through the recession and in the last few years. Besides the extended benefit award period, a federally funded benefit enhancement plan awarding aggrieved employees an additional $25 in benefits from the federal government expired just last year. Current benefit extensions are set to expire at the end of December 2011, but are likely to be extended yet again. In Wisconsin, the latest updates to the extension programs are posted here.
Calculating benefit rates can be even more difficult than determining which extensions may apply. Even laid-off workers who return to work part-time or at a much lower wage may be eligible for partial unemployment insurance benefits depending on how much they earn in their newfound employment. The unemployment division considers an employee's last four quarters of earnings when determining unemployment payments. Although the formula, especially for computing part-time benefits, can be complicated for the uninitiated, the division has made a basic benefit calculator available here. The maximum weekly benefit rate in Wisconsin is currently $363 and the minimum weekly benefit rate is $54. Employee who earned more than $36,500 in the year preceding their qualifying separation of employee are entitled to the maximum of $363 per week, unless they have other income from employment.
If you have questions about your benefit rate, I would encourage you to contact the unemployment division directly or consult the websites linked above. If you have questions about eligibility for benefits or a potential appeal of an unemployment determination, please contact me.
Attorney Nicholas M. McLeod is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C. If you have questions about unemployment insurance, he may be reached at: [email protected]