Montana unemployment extension

Montana unemployment extension DEFAULT

Many beneficiaries don’t know how to get an unemployment extension, and ask “what can I do to extend unemployment in Montana?” As a general rule, federal unemployment extension programs are only available during periods of high unemployment. One federal extension program is called the Emergency Unemployment Compensation, 2008 (EUC08) which was a one-time legislative effort to assist those who lost their jobs during the Great Recession of 2008. The other is called Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED). However, these two unemployment extension programs are not currently active.

For more information about unemployment compensation extension programs, please see the following sections:

Montana Unemployment Resources

Federal Guidelines for Unemployment Compensation Extensions in Montana

During times when the jobless rate remains high, the United States Congress can vote to extend unemployment benefits for an additional period of time. Unemployment benefits extension programs are available through both the state and federal governments during periods of high unemployment, providing a higher level of economic security to those who are out of work. Extended unemployment insurance benefits can be obtained by workers who have run through the regular unemployment aid. The basic Extended Benefits allows for 13 additional weeks of benefits if a state is experiencing a period of high unemployment. Some states have also initiated a voluntary program to pay an additional seven weeks of extended benefits totaling a maximum of 20 weeks.

Not everyone who qualifies for regular unemployment insurance coverage qualifies for extended benefits. The weekly benefit amount of extended benefits is the same as the amount the recipient receives for regular unemployment compensation, unless otherwise specified.

It is critical to note that applicants cannot apply for extended benefits and initiate the process independently. An unemployment benefits extension can only apply to an applicant MT is experiencing very high rates of unemployment. It is only during these times that the state/federal government will activate these extended benefit programs, and they will actually mail out notifications to the eligible candidates who will receive extended benefits. Otherwise, there is no way to file for unemployment extensions.

Claimants should keep a detailed log of unemployment insurance benefits received to ensure that he or she is awarded all the payments for which he or is eligible. If you are unsure about whether you might be eligible for an unemployment compensation extension, you can always contact your unemployment counselor to check on whether extended benefits are available.

Emergency Unemployment Compensation in Montana

The formerly active federal unemployment extension program known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) expired in 2013. The program was created to avoid a widespread economic depression. Petitioners claiming benefits for unemployment during the 2008 recession were granted these benefits in an effort to provide continued economic stimulation. It is not presently known if it will become active again. The Montana labor authorities can supply more details regarding the program.

Depending on the unemployment rates in the country, the extension program included four stages, as follows:

  • Stage 1 EUC08:  20-week maximum unemployment extension
  • Stage 2 EUC08:  14-week maximum unemployment extension
  • Stage 3 EUC08:  13-week maximum unemployment extension
  • Stage 4 EUC08: 6-week maximum unemployment extension

In general, if an applicant consumes all of his or her regular unemployment benefits, he or she will not have to apply for an unemployment benefits extension because the system automatically applies for the eligible candidate. The federal government considers the stimulus in dire situations and does not grant extensions lightly. If you approach the point where your benefits will run out, contact your employment counselor to see what you have to do to possibly receive an unemployment extension.

Federal-State Extended Duration in Montana

Another unemployment extension program is the Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED), also called Extended Benefits (EB). This program was developed as a more permanent solution to battle prolonged periods of high unemployment. You can only qualify for EB unemployment benefits extension if you have exhausted all of your regular unemployment benefits. If you qualify for an EB unemployment extension, you will receive additional benefits in the amount of 20 weeks, or 80 percent of the maximum benefit amount on the original unemployment claim, whichever amount is less.

Remember, these programs are only available during high unemployment periods and that an applicant cannot independently initiate the application process for an unemployment benefits extension in Montana. If an applicant is eligible for an unemployment extension, and the program is active and available, the government will notify him or her by mail.


Montana opts to end $300 unemployment boost. Other states may, too

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, is ending participation in federal unemployment programs June 27.
William Campbell | Corbis News | Getty Images

Sign of things to come?

Montana appears to be the first state to opt out of the federal funding early, according to labor experts. Workers in other states will be able to collect expanded aid through Sept. 6.

"Seems punitive, and probably a shape of things to come in many red states," Arindrajit Dube, a professor and labor economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a tweet.

There is precedent among other Republican-led states to turn down federal unemployment funds during the pandemic.

For example, South Dakota was the lone state to opt out of Lost Wages Assistance, a $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits. The federally funded payment was issued for up to six weeks starting in August.

Idaho and South Dakota also chose not to pay a $100 weekly stipend to some self-employed and gig workers. The payment was part of a $900 billion relief paw passed in December. (Montana is also choosing to end this payment in June.)

Labor shortage

Montana is turning down expanded federal benefits to address a "severe workforce shortage," Gianforte said.

The state's labor force is 10,000 workers smaller than before the pandemic and its 3.8% unemployment rate is near pre-Covid lows, he said. (The national rate was 6% in March.)

Weekly job postings are near record highs and the labor shortage is affecting nearly every industry in the state, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

It's not just about people willing to take the job, but also about what's realistic. Restaurants don't always want to hire the college professor.
senior fellow at The Century Foundation

"Incentives matter and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good," Gianforte said.

Under the Montana Return-To-Work Bonus Initiative, workers will get a $1,200 payment if they had an active unemployment claim as of May 4 and work four full weeks.

Finding a job

Some labor experts disagree with the state's move. They argue existing policies shouldn't be removed until there's a full recovery.

For one, offering a return-to-work bonus doesn't mean people will be able to find full-time jobs quickly or easily, they said. That dynamic may leave current unemployment recipients without money to pay bills in the interim.

"People won't magically find a job," said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. "They may not get one until deep in the summer.

"It's not just about people willing to take the job, but also about what's realistic," Stettner added. "Restaurants don't always want to hire the college professor."

Further, a low unemployment rate masks broader pain in the labor market. It doesn't capture workers who left the labor force to take care of kids still learning from home, or those hesitant to return to work due to the virus.

The labor-shortage discussion also doesn't account for wages, experts said. A business may not be able to find workers who feel the pay is too low.

Broadly, pay doesn't seem to be rising to attract workers, according to Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

"We don't see wages moving up yet," Powell said in a speech last week. "And presumably we would see that in a really tight labor market."

Of course, employers hit hard by the pandemic — like a restaurant that still can't operate at full capacity — may struggle to raise wages.

Surging job openings may also be attributable to growing pains in an unprecedented time of employment expansion, instead of a labor shortage, Dube said.

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HELENA — Citing Montana’s “severe workforce shortage,” Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said Tuesday the state will be the first in the nation to end enhanced COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits, replacing them with a $1,200 bonus for unemployed workers who return to work.

“Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage,” Gianforte said in a statement. “Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good. We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.” 

The state unemployment insurance program, funded mostly by employer contributions, offers partial salary replacement to workers who are laid off or have had their hours cut. Over the course of the pandemic, Montana had used federal money to increase weekly payments and relaxed some rules around the program. The state has extended eligibility to self-employed workers, let workers stay on unemployment rolls beyond 13 weeks and exempted beneficiaries from being required to actively seek new work.

Funding included in the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March had been slated to provide people claiming unemployment in Montana with an extra $300 a week beyond their standard benefits through early September. Gianforte said Montana will instead return its unemployment insurance system to its pre-pandemic rules and benefit levels June 27.

Rather than expanded unemployment benefits, the state will offer the $1,200 return-to-work payments using flexible funding from the rescue plan act. 

House Bill 632, which the Legislature used as a mechanism to formally allocate Montana’s more than $2 billion in stimulus money, was signed into law by Gianforte last week. An Economic Transformation and Stabilization and Workforce Development Advisory Commission created by the bill met for the first time Tuesday morning, endorsing a $15 million allocation for the Return-to-Work Bonus Initiative. The bill specifies that the economic commission and other advisory groups will make recommendations to the governor, who has formal authority to spend the money based on the Legislature’s broad allocations.

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Department of Labor Workforce Services Division Administrator Scott Eychner said at Tuesday’s meeting that workers who are currently on the unemployment rolls will be eligible for the one-time $1,200 payment after completing four weeks at a new job. The $15 million allocation, enough to provide the bonuses to 12,500 workers, will be available through the end of October on a first-come-first-served basis.

The intent, Eychner said, is for the money to help workers address barriers like childcare access or lack of reliable transportation that may be keeping them from rejoining the workforce.

“We believe that this money would in some sense, maybe not wholly, but in large part, would go to help resolve some of those issues,” he said.

The economic advisory commission includes members of Gianforte’s administration as well as Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The group endorsed the return-to-work program unanimously, though House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, D-Helena, protested that she hadn’t been given enough time to fully consider the proposal.

“I think I like it,” Abbott said. 

The economic advisory commission discussion didn’t reference the governor’s decision to bring the pandemic unemployment benefits to an end, which was announced later Tuesday. Abbott said following the announcement that she hadn’t been aware the other decision was pending.

“I’m worried about what this means for people who are still depending on these benefits as we come out of the pandemic,” Abbott said.

“I am frustrated that I voted on something without understanding the whole context of the vote,” she added.

Republic Sen. Steve Daines applauded Gianforte’s announcement in a statement.

“Across Montana we’re seeing small businesses put up ‘help wanted’ or ‘now hiring’ signs. We’re even seeing some Montana small businesses close because they can’t find enough workers to fill openings,” Daines said. “Montanans can safely return to work and small businesses throughout Montana have plenty of job openings.”

A spokesman for Sen. Jon Tester said in an email Tuesday that the Democratic senator also supports ending Montana’s pandemic-expanded unemployment benefits. 

“What works for Montana might not work for every state but the American Rescue Plan has been successful in quickly putting our economy back on the path to full recovery, so Senator Tester supports discontinuing the enhanced pandemic unemployment program earlier than originally planned,” said Tester press secretary Roy Loewenstein.

Tester’s office also applauded the back-to-work initiative Tuesday, saying he is “proud to have secured these funds through the American Rescue Plan that are being used today to support Montanans who are ready to return to work.”

There are now more weekly job postings than there were before the pandemic, the labor department said in a brochure explaining the shift in benefits, and the state unemployment rate is nearly back to pre-pandemic lows at 3.8%.

“Today, the biggest threat to Montana’s economy isn’t the virus — it’s a critical labor shortage affecting nearly every industry,” the department said.

This story is published by Montana Free Press as part of the Long Streets Project, which explores Montana’s economy with in-depth reporting. This work is supported in part by a grant from the Greater Montana Foundation, which encourages communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans. Discuss MTFP’s Long Streets work with Lead Reporter Eric Dietrich at [email protected]

Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer and the founder of the Long Streets economic reporting project. His reporting focuses broadly on Montana’s governance and economic opportunity, with particular focus on the state budget and tax policy. He also contributes data reporting across the MTFP newsroom. Before joining the MTFP staff in 2019, he worked for the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network and also earned an engineering degree from Montana State University. Contact Eric at [email protected], 406-465-3386 ext. 2, and follow him on Twitter.

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Montana Labor Department Announces Unemployment Benefits Extension

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry announced Tuesday that it has continued paying out unemployment insurance benefits through the latest federal stimulus package passed at the end of last year. An agency spokesperson said the programs will be open until mid-March, with some final payments extending into April.

The federal Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act extends the unemployment assistance program designed for gig workers, the self-employed and other groups not normally eligible for unemployment benefits.

The rollout of the federal policy in Montana will also pay up to 11 additional weeks of benefits. Those eligible will also receive an extra $300 weekly through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment compensation program. 

Montana is also opting into the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program. This will provide an extra $100 per week to certain self-employed workers not receiving benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

The Montana labor department has issued over $1.1 billion in benefits since the beginning of the pandemic.


Extension montana unemployment

Montana will launch Return-to-Work bonuses, and opt-out of federal unemployment benefits

Governor Greg Gianforte on Tuesday announced two measures to address the state’s severe workforce shortage and provide incentives for unemployed Montanans to reenter the labor force.

A news release says that the State of Montana will launch a return-to-work bonus program, utilizing federal funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act. Return-to-work bonuses will be paid to unemployed individuals who rejoin the labor force and accept and maintain steady employment for at least one month.

The Return-to-Work Bonus initiative will offer $1,200 payments to individuals receiving unemployment benefits as of May 4, 2021, who subsequently accept employment and complete at least four paid weeks of work. Individuals eligible for the bonus will be contacted by the Department of Labor and Industry and informed of their eligibility, as well as more information about how to ensure they receive the payment after they complete four weeks of employment.

The governor also announced that Montana will end its participation in federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs and transition to pre-pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) eligibility and benefits by the end of June.

Gianforte said that Montana will be the first state in the nation to fully opt-out of the federal unemployment benefit programs enacted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Requirements that unemployment insurance claimants actively seek work and be “able and available” for work will be reinstated effective June 27, as well. These requirements had previously been suspended under emergency rule-making authority in March of last year. More information about work-search and “able & available” requirements is available in the UI Claimants handbook.

Montana’s Department of Labor & Industry announced the following changes to the unemployment insurance (UI) program, all effective June 27:

  • Claimants who have exhausted their traditional UI benefits but had continued to receive them through the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will no longer be eligible for UI payments.
  • Montana will no longer be issuing supplemental $300 weekly payments to claimants under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.
  • Montana will no longer participate in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. PUA presently provides benefits to the self-employed, the underemployed, independent contractors, and individuals who have been unable to work due to health or COVID-19 affected reasons.
  • Montana will no longer participate in the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program, which offers supplemental payments to individuals who had both traditional W-2 income as well as self-employment income.

Unemployment insurance claimants will be receiving information soon about how these changes affect them individually. Until then, claimants with questions about their future eligibility are encouraged to visit or contact the Department of Labor & Industry at 406-444-2545. Claimants receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) should contact 406-444-3382.

“Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage,” said Gianforte. “Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good. We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce. Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work.”

Across Montana, employers struggle to find workers, particularly in the health care, construction, manufacturing, and hospitality and leisure industries. Returning to pre-pandemic unemployment eligibility and offering return-to-work incentives will encourage workers to reenter the workforce and help ease a critical labor shortage across Montana.

“Montana’s unemployment rate is at just 3.8% – near pre-pandemic lows – and statewide there are record numbers of new job postings each week. But today, despite an influx of new residents into Montana over the last year, our labor force is some 10,000 workers smaller than it was before the pandemic,” said Laurie Esau, the commissioner of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. “Our labor shortage doesn’t just affect employers and business owners. Employees who are forced to work longer shifts, serve more customers or clients, and take on more duties have been paying the price.”


South Carolina and Montana to end all pandemic unemployment benefits for jobless residents

They are the first two states to halt participation in the historic federal expansion of jobless benefits, which Congress enacted last spring as the coronavirus pandemic began upending the national economy and costing millions of Americans their jobs.
The move, which may be replicated in other states as the economy springs back to life amid declining coronavirus cases, is necessary to address Montana's "severe worker shortage," said Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican.
He noted that he has heard from many employers that they can't find workers, particularly in the health care, construction, manufacturing, and hospitality and leisure industries.
"Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good," Gianforte said. "We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce."
Instead, Montana will provide $1,200 return-to-work bonuses, paid for with funds from President Joe Biden's$1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster made no mention of a bonus in his announcement Thursday. He echoed Gianforte's comments, saying that the supplemental federal payments, combined with state benefits, are larger than some workers' previous paychecks.
"What was intended to be a short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement, incentivizing and paying workers to stay at home rather than encouraging them to return to the workplace," he said.
Business owners and Republican national and state officials have warned over the past year that the enhanced federal unemployment benefits will keep out-of-work Americans on the sidelines longer, though several academic studies have found no evidence of that.
Congressional Republicans tried to create a federal return-to-work bonus last summer when lawmakers were debating whether to extend a $600 weekly enhancement before it expired in late July. Neither were ultimately enacted.
After Congress failed to renew the supplement, former President Donald Trump provided $300 in federal benefits for several weeks to the unemployed via executive action. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, turned down that offer, saying her state had already recovered most of its job losses.

Federally funded benefits

While all the funding for the pandemic unemployment benefits programs comes from the federal government, states can opt to terminate their participation.
Though hiring has picked up in recent months, the nation still had 8 million fewer jobs in March than it did in February 2020.
Some 16.2 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of mid-April, according to the most recent federal data.

Benefits to end in late June

Montana will stop issuing the $300 weekly federal enhancement to jobless residents starting June 27. The benefit, which Congress enacted in late December, was recently extended until early September as part of the Democrats' recent coronavirus relief package.
The state will also end payments to those in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs on that date.
The former provides benefits to freelancers, independent contractors, the self-employed and certain people affected by the coronavirus, while the latter extends the duration of payments to those in the regular state unemployment benefits program.
Both were created by Congress in March 2020 and were extended to early September as part of the relief package Biden signed in March.
Also, Montana will reinstate its work search requirement as of June 27 -- a step other states have also taken in recent months.
There were nearly 23,300 unemployment claims filed in Montana the week ending April 24, including residents in the regular state program and the federal programs, according to state data.
South Carolina will terminate its participation in the programs on June 30.
Nearly 108,500 residents of the Palmetto State received weekly enhanced payments for the week ending May 1. Some 37,300 residents participated in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and another 56,300 were in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, though 9,300 would be eligible to transfer to regular state benefits.
Montana's unemployment rate was 3.8% in March, among the lowest in the nation and near its pre-pandemic lows. It hit a virus-fueled high of 11.9% in April 2020.
There are a record number of new job postings each week, said Laurie Esau, the state's labor and industry commissioner.
"But today, despite an influx of new residents into Montana over the last year, our labor force is some 10,000 workers smaller than it was before the pandemic," she said.
More than 14,000 jobs are posted on the portal, according to the state agency.
To provide an extra incentive, those who are receiving unemployment benefits as of May 4 and subsequently accept a job offer will receive a $1,200 bonus after they complete at least four paid weeks of work.
In South Carolina, the unemployment rate was 5.1% in March, down from 11.5% in April and May of 2020.
The state has nearly 82,000 open positions, according to Dan Ellzey, director of South Carolina's Department of Employment and Workforce. He noted that the hotel and food service industries are facing employee shortages that threaten their sustainability.
This story and headline have been updated to add that South Carolina will end its pandemic unemployment benefits.

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