MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) -- Big changes are coming to Alabama’s jobless benefits program. It’s part of a new state law, the Alabama Unemployment Reduction Act, that went into effect Jan. 1.
The first change involves the number of weeks that were provided for unemployment benefits. It used to be 26 weeks. Now it’s been reduced 14 weeks.
“Now you can add additional weeks if the unemployment rises above six and a half percent," explained Alabama Department of Labor spokeswoman Tara Hutchison. "So for every half of a percentage point, they will add another week. So it’s directly tied to the unemployment rate.”
Another wrinkle in the program is that the new state law allows for an additional five-week extension for recipients who enroll and make progress in three programs approved by the Alabama Department of Labor. The programs include any GED training, programs provided through the Alabama Career Center System, an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s or doctorate degree curriculum and any vocational trade or certificate program.
“Following the last recession you did see several other states, I believe Georgia and possibly South Carolina, and a handful start to reduce those number of weeks payable in case there is another large recession like we had in 2009,” said Hutchison.
The reason behind the changes?
“Well I certainly don’t want to speak for the bill’s sponsor, (state Sen. Arthur Orr) but it was introduced as a cost-saving measure,” she said. And that’s not all. The maximum weekly amount rises by $10 for a total of $275 per week.
Alabama Department of Labor leaders say the new law does not affect anyone who started receiving benefits before Jan. 1.
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