Georgia's dropping unemployment rate has triggered a cut in federal unemployment benefits.
About 15,000 people will lose a final 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits April 21. Those losing their unemployment insurance payments this month have been without jobs the longest. They are drawing checks from the last of six layers of state unemployment and federal extensions that can stretch to nearly two years.
"The trigger [for the loss of the program] was our unemployment rate," said Brenda Brown, the unemployment insurance director at the state Department of Labor.
Georgia's three-month average unemployment rate from January to March was 9.24 percent. To keep the last federal extension, it needed to be 110 percent of what it was during the same three months of 2009, or 9.35 percent, according to federal regulations.
Brown said the system has grown complex during the recession since various levels of federal help have been put in place.
Georgians who lose a job can qualify for up to 26 weeks of state unemployment. After that runs out, they can reapply for a first federal extension of up to 20 weeks, then a second extension of up to 14 weeks, followed by a third extension of 13 weeks.
The jobless can apply for is a fourth extension of up to six weeks, which was followed by the final 20-week extension that Georgia no longer qualifies for. Georgians do not automatically qualify for each extension, which must be applied for individually.
More than 135,000 workers risk losing jobless benefits this month the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group based in New York City that tracks when these benefits end and calculates how many people may be affected, reported to Stateline.org, a government policy news site.
Extended benefits ended last week for Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin, state and federal officials said.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has already announced that the last benefit payments for residents will be made on April 16.
In addition to Georgia, extended benefits also are expected to expire the week of April 21 in Alabama, Delaware, Maryland and Washington state, according to NELP.
The silver lining in Georgia is the unemployment rate is dropping, Brown said.
It had been above 10 percent in Georgia, but the latest figure is 9.1 percent. That remains above the national average of 8.3 percent.
Robert Gordon, the career center manager at the DeKalb Career Center, said the number of employers offering jobs has ticked up noticeably since the end of January.
"After Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we had employers calling, posting job orders and doing recruitment," he said.
As word of hiring has gotten out, more of the unemployed have come in for training and help, Gordon said.
"Of course, it will take a while to absorb all the people who still don't have jobs," he said.
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