A sign outside of RD’s Barber Shop indicating that they are closed can be seen here in Kenai, Alaska on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign outside of RD’s Barber Shop indicating that they are closed can be seen here in Kenai, Alaska on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

State expands unemployment benefits

Workers may be eligible for up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits.

Alaskans who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits, according to a May 1 press release from the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“Reopening Alaska’s economy responsibly and getting Alaskans back to work will take some time,” labor department commissioner Tamika Ledbetter said in the release. “It’s important that we help Alaskans out of work through no fault of their own, by extending unemployment benefits so they can meet their basic needs until they are able to return to work.”

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is providing the additional payments as part of the Federal CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27.

The benefits will be payable to people who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits on claims that ended July 6, 2019 or later. The additional payments are available during the weeks ending April 4 through Dec. 26, 2020.

The weekly benefits and dependent allowance will remain the same, and additional payments are subject to IRS tax withholding. Standard unemployment benefits in Alaska last between 16 and 26 weeks, according to the state’s UI handbook.

People who meet the criteria for these additional payments will be mailed notification of potential eligibility and should contact their nearest claim center to complete an application.

People who are ineligible for regular state or federal unemployment benefits may qualify for pandemic unemployment assistance, also available through the CARES Act.

This includes workers who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers and others who are not working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an April 27 department of labor press release.

Applicants must apply for regular unemployment insurance before filing for pandemic unemployment assistance. Both applications can be filed online by going to my.alaska.gov and clicking on the “Unemployment” tab. People on the Kenai Peninsula without internet access may also contact the claim center by phone at 888-252-2557.

More than 32,000 Alaskans filed a claim for unemployment benefits in March, which is an increase of 637% when compared to March of 2019, according to the department of labor.

For more information on unemployment assistance in Alaska, visit labor.alaska.gov.

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