OLYMPIA, Wash. – The unemployment rate in Washington state is going down, which is a good thing. But that good thing will come at a price for those who still don’t have jobs -- their long-term unemployment benefits are being cut.
The Washington state Employment Security Department announced Tuesday that it is cutting 26 weeks of benefits for most eligible workers, dropping from 99 weeks to 73 weeks. Due to improving employment numbers, the state no longer qualifies to get as much help from the federal government.
That means 12,500 unemployed people in Washington will lose their benefits on April 21. Another 11,000 will lose their benefits within the eight following weeks. By the end of the year, an additional 40,000 could lose their benefits.
"We are at a difficult point, where our unemployment rate is greatly improved, yet still relatively high," said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. "Losing up to six months of benefits will make the unemployment situation a lot more urgent for thousands of families."
The state says 175,000 people claim unemployment benefits each week in Washington. 60 percent of those who are accepting the maximum benefits are men. The largest percentage of so-called “exhausters” are those between the ages of 45 and 54.
“I’ve been looking for a long time. Because of my age, I’m limited,” said Jon Allen, 51.
Allen said he has been unemployed, off and on, for the last 170 weeks. He is in the Army National Guard and said a deployment to Iraq and around the country have made it hard for him to find a regular job. But, he thinks his age is an obstacle for employers.
“The older we get, the more set in our ways we get as individuals. We become less and less likely to fit the criteria those employers are looking for.”
ESD will mail notices to everyone who is claiming long-term benefits to explain how they may be affected. The state is urging those who are unemployed to contact WorkSource for assistance in finding a job.