Unemployment checks going up $25

Published 10:05 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

Unemployment benefits in Alabama are going up by $25 a week, beginning next month.

The federal economic stimulus package provided money for all states to raise their benefits through the end of the year. Gov. Bob Riley announced Friday he had signed an agreement with the federal government to make the increase available in Alabama.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said the unemployed in Alabama should begin receiving the extra money on or before March 27.

The increase will affect about 70,000 Alabamians currently drawing regular unemployment benefits or extended emergency benefits. A spokesman for the governor said the increase is automatic for Alabamians currently drawing benefits, and they do not have to make any phone calls or fill out any forms to receive it.

The increase will boost the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Alabama from $255 to $280. The increase will show up on the people’s statements as an additional deposit — either to their bank account, if they elected direct deposit, or on their debit card, if they chose that option for receiving benefits.

The increase is different from a portion of the federal stimulus package that Riley does not want the state to accept.

That portion would provide about $100 million to help the unemployed. But to receive it, Alabama would have to rewrite its unemployment laws to cover an estimated 20,000 who don’t currently qualify for benefits.

Riley said that when the federal stimulus money runs out in three or four years, businesses and possibly individuals would have to pay higher taxes to continue the additional coverage, and he’s opposed to that.