State's unemployed eligible for federal benefits

The approximately 30,000 Tennesseans who have exhausted the first 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits will now be eligible for an additional 37 weeks of federal benefits courtesy of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which became law late Wednesday.

The law extends the federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program through Jan. 1, 2014. The federal benefits were slated to expire at the end of 2012 with claimants receiving their last payment the first week of January.

The legislation simply extends the deadline to receive existing federal benefits and does not add additional weeks.

Tennessee claimants are currently allowed a maximum of 26 weeks of state benefits.

“This has been an uncertain time for those depending on unemployment benefits,” Karla Davis, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner, said in a release. “I would encourage claimants to focus their job search by using our jobs database at and visiting a Tennessee Career Center.”

The state labor department must still receive authorization from the federal government to pay federal EUC08 claims.

While the USDOL expects to have authorizations in place to provide a seamless transition, a delay of a week or more is possible, state officials said. A retroactive payment would then be made to make up for lost weeks before resuming regular weekly payments.