Unemployed Alabamians to receive weekly benefit increase

MONTGOMERY, AL., -- Governor Bob Riley has authorized an additional $25 a week in unemployment benefits that is part of the federal stimulus law passed by Congress. Governor Riley signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor making the benefit increase for unemployed Alabamians effective. Claimants who qualify for the additional $25 benefit will begin receiving it on or before March 27.

The increase in weekly unemployment benefits will bring in $75 million to the state's economy.

Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said the additional monetary benefits will help the unemployed and the state. "This will provide struggling families with a little extra income at a time they and our economy need it," Surtees said.

Unlike a different portion of the stimulus law related to unemployment benefits, the weekly benefit increase does not require changes in state law and will not result in a higher tax burden on Alabama businesses when the stimulus funds are depleted.  Alabama does not qualify for those other unemployment compensation funds in the stimulus due to existing state law, and Governor Riley is recommending that the Legislature not make the changes necessary to state law in order to accept those other stimulus funds amounting to $99.5 million that would expand unemployment benefit coverage. This $99.5 million portion of the stimulus would start running out in as little as three years and Alabama businesses, and potentially their employees, would face a higher tax burden to fill the shortfall.

"Where the stimulus gives us an opportunity to make Alabama a better state, we will use it.  But we shouldn't accept the part that's going to increase taxes on job creation when we're trying to create jobs," said Governor Riley. "That's not going to help the economy."

Claimants who qualify for the additional $25 benefit will begin receiving it on or before March 27. The benefit applies to anyone currently receiving regular Unemployment Compensation benefits as well as those receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.  Currently, approximately 70,000 Alabamians could be eligible to receive the additional benefit.

The additional payment will show up on claimants' statements as an additional deposit; either to their bank account, if they have elected direct deposit, or to their debit card, if they have chosen that option.

The additional benefit will expire at the end of this year.