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Officials reduce federal unemployment benefits

Published: Friday, June 14, 2013 3:01 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, June 14, 2013 3:02 p.m. CST

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PRINCETON –  Long-term unemployed individuals who collect weekly unemployment insurance benefits saw a 16.8 percent reduction in payments this week.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) advised in a press release the reduction, which averages to be about a $51 weekly reduction, is a result of federal sequestration’s across-the-board budget cuts. About 80,000 Illinois residents collect federal unemployment compensation.

According to the press release, the reductions will end Sept. 30 at the end of the federal fiscal year. IDES Media Adviser Greg Rivara said the federal program ends in December, therefore it will only exist about two and one-half months after the end of this fiscal year before completely phasing out.

State benefits, which are funded through a payroll tax, will not change.

“State benefits represent the first 25 or 26 weeks of unemployment insurance compensation, depending upon when the claim was initiated,” stated the IDES press release. “Federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits are paid after state benefits.”

The reduced unemployment benefits comply with the 10 percent automatic sequestration cuts the federal government put in place if a budget deal were not reached between Congress and President Barack Obama.

According to the IDES, unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment. The rate does not reflect individuals collecting unemployment insurance benefits. A person who exhausts benefits, or is ineligible, still will be reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.

As the federal program creeps closer to phasing out, Rivara suggested individuals collecting federal benefits should complete a skills assessment test and attempt to update their working skills.

“If someone has been out of work (long enough to collect federal unemployment benefits) and hasn’t updated their skills, they are not in a position to enter the work force,” he said.

According to Rivara, Illinois businesses are hiring and just on one Illinois job website there are nearly 130,000 help wanted job listings. He said individuals needs to focus on their current skills and finds ways to fill the gap with the type of skills employers are looking for.

Rivara said when people are applying for work, they have to remember two things to be successful in finding a job. The first, is to be able to explain to hiring manager why they want a specific job and not just tell managers they need the job. The second thing, is when applying for a job, use the same words that are in the help wanted ad to show how they can be a part in helping that company grow. Rivara said individuals should also be able to demonstrate what they know about the specific company they are applying for.

“Know the history of the company, understand the role they play in the community and that will make you stand out from everyone else,” he said.

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