How Long Does Unemployment Last?

When you get approved for unemployment benefits, it can feel like a life preserver has been thrown to you — because it has. But, of course, the longer you go, floundering about in the water, that life preserver may start to feel like a dinghy with a hole in it. Because at some point, you start wondering, “How long does unemployment last?” and “At what point will my unemployment benefits end?”

It isn’t a good feeling.

So if you’re feeling uneasy these days about the future of your unemployment benefits, we’ll walk you through what you can expect.

[READ: COVID-19 Relief Package: $1,400 Stimulus Checks, $300 Unemployment Benefits.]

How Many Weeks of Regular State Unemployment Benefits Are Available?

“The period for collecting unemployment benefits varies by state but the maximum period for getting such benefits is 26 weeks,” says David Clark, a lawyer and partner at the Clark Law Office, which has offices in Lansing and Okemos, Michigan.

How do the states stack up? See the list below. This is a list of regular state unemployment benefits and does not include additional benefits such as pandemic-related unemployment compensation.

— Alabama: 14 weeks

— Alaska: 26 weeks

— Arizona: 26 weeks

— Arkansas: 16 weeks

— California: 20 weeks

— Colorado: 26 weeks

— Connecticut: 26 weeks

— Delaware: 26 weeks

— District of Columbia: 26 weeks

— Florida: 19 weeks

— Georgia: 16 weeks

— Hawaii: 16 weeks

— Idaho: 21 weeks

— Illinois: 26 weeks

— Indiana: 26 weeks

— Iowa: 26 weeks

— Kansas: 26 weeks

— Kentucky: 26 weeks

— Louisiana: 26 weeks

— Maine: 26 weeks

— Maryland: 26 weeks

— Massachusetts: 26 weeks

— Michigan: 20 weeks

— Minnesota: 26 weeks

— Mississippi: 26 weeks

— Missouri: 20 weeks

— Montana: 28 weeks

— Nebraska: 26 weeks

— Nevada: 26 weeks

— New Hampshire: 26 weeks

— New Jersey: 26 weeks

— New Mexico: 26 weeks

— New York: 26 weeks

— North Carolina: 16 weeks

— North Dakota: 26 weeks

— Ohio: 26 weeks

— Oklahoma: 26 weeks

— Oregon: 26 weeks

— Pennsylvania: 26 weeks

— Puerto Rico: 26 weeks

— Rhode Island: 26 weeks

— South Carolina: 20 weeks

— South Dakota: 26 weeks

— Tennessee: 26 weeks

— Texas:26 weeks

— Utah: 26 weeks

— Vermont: 26 weeks

— Virgin Islands: 26 weeks

— Virginia: 26 weeks

— Washington: 26 weeks

— West Virginia: 26 weeks

— Wisconsin: 26 weeks

— Wyoming: 26 weeks

[READ: When COVID Relief Measures Expire and How to Prepare.]

What Federal Unemployment Benefits Are Available?

There are three federal unemployment benefit programs available — but not for long. They’re set to end on Sept. 6. It has been estimated that approximately 7.5 million Americans are at risk for losing federal unemployment benefits.

Those three federal unemployment benefit programs are:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This provides unemployment compensation to self-employed workers who otherwise aren’t eligible for state benefits. The amount of compensation depends on the state and how much you earned in your previous employment.

Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. This offers help to the long-term unemployed who have depleted their regular state benefits. It was giving workers $600 a week until midway in the summer of 2020 when it was reduced to $300 a week.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. This offers an additional $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits to unemployed workers.

But again, unless Congress intervenes, these three federal unemployment programs are set to end. For about half the country, these programs have already ended. Many states ended them early.

What if I Need Unemployment Benefits After 26 Weeks? Do I Have Options?

After Sept. 6, your options may be pretty limited, other than finding employment. Of course, regular unemployment benefits will continue, and so if you became unemployed, for instance, on Aug. 20, you’d have a couple weeks of receiving extended benefits — and then you would continue receiving your regular state’s unemployment benefits.

If you are unemployed and struggling to find work, Clark suggests that unemployed workers should check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Solutions for businesses and workers, which focuses on employees who have been laid off or affected by plant closures.

“The program assists workers by providing various services including job search assistance, career counseling, resume preparation, unemployment insurance and opportunities for training and education,” Clark says.

He also recommends that workers with disability employment issues check out’s Job Accommodation Network. Clark also recommends young unemployed workers look at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Jobs Corps program, which, he says, “provides skills training and career counseling.”

Mary Sullivan, a career transformation specialist in Kirkland, Washington, recommends unemployed employees who are running out of benefits take advantage of all the job training and workshops that your state has to offer.

“Many times, you can not only level up your skills but meet new connections to help you find a job,” Sullivan says.

[See: 10 Jobs to Consider for a Career Change.]

She also suggests the tried and true part-time job, though she goes with the fancier names “gap job” and “side hustle.”

“The key to everything is to stay positive and have a plan. Exhaust all the government training, workshops and financial programs there to help you until you find the job you need,” Sullivan says.

But, of course, it would be easier to stay positive if the federal unemployment benefit programs weren’t ending. They may have been borne out of the pandemic, but the pandemic marches on, and for those people who are just losing their jobs now, a life preserver is just what you need right now.

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