California's economy is on a steady rebound, with a rapidly improving housing market, more construction jobs and increased international trade.
But if you've been out of work for a long time, this might not equate to good news.
That's because the state's long-term unemployed will likely be ineligible to receive the final 10-week extension of their unemployment benefits, come Friday.
California's unemployment rate is on track to dip below a three-month average of 9 percent, the minimum level required by federal guidelines to receive the final Tier 4 federal extension.
California's jobless rate for May was 8.6 percent and April was 9 percent. New figures for June, including the unemployment rate, are scheduled to be released Friday.
The state Employment Development Department says it expects to receive official notification of the cutback on Friday from the U.S. Department of Labor.
"We want to make sure that our customers have as much warning as possible about reduced benefits so they can plan their personal finances accordingly," EDD Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard said in a statement.
If the three-month average does dip below 9 percent, any claimant who starts a Tier 4 extension on Aug. 11 or later will not be eligible for those benefits. But others who start a Tier 4 extension before Aug. 11 and who remain otherwise eligible will be allowed to collect the remainder of their benefits until exhausted or until Dec. 28, whichever comes first, EDD officials said.
And all tiers of the federal unemployment extension benefits program are set to expire at the end of 2013 unless Congress votes to make further changes.
"The problem is these people often aren't getting benefits from anywhere else," said Robin McCarthy, executive director of Women at Work, a Pasadena-based career and job resource center. "Many are single or living with families that don't have benefits. Or you might have a mother who is out of work with an adult child staying at home. The child might have a job at some fast-food restaurant ... but with no benefits."
Unemployment insurance provides workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own with monthly monetary payments for a given period of time, or until they can find another job.
Tier 4 benefits have been available to long-term unemployed residents after they run out of regular state-provided benefits of up to 26 weeks and Tiers 1,2 and 3 of the federal extension benefits. If someone made use of all of that, it adds up to a total of 73 weeks.
With the cutback, that will be reduced to 63 weeks.
The more than 100,000 Californians who are collecting benefits as part of the Tier 3 extension will likely be among the first to be affected by the loss of Tier 4 eligibility. Claimants on Tier 1 and Tier 2 extensions may also eventually be impacted, EDD officials said.
Cynthia Escanuelas said she's been receiving unemployment benefits for a year and a half.
"I've been unemployed for two years, but right now I'm working part time as a bookkeeper for a pool maintenance company," the 54-year-old Monrovia resident said. "I'm still looking for a full-time job. I never got the Tier 4 extension because the economy got better. This is disappointing because that last extension helps people survive a little bit longer."
Escanuelas said she's been volunteering at Women at Work and has also taken classes to upgrade her skills. She had worked as an executive secretary for the International Union of Operating Engineers before being laid off two years ago.
More than 750,000 Californians are currently collecting unemployment benefits, and nearly half are collecting on a federal extension claim. The EDD paid a total of $13.8 billion in unemployment benefits in 2012 and the department has paid out $5.8 billion this year, as of June.
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