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Washington, Idaho trim weeks of unemployment pay

Long-term unemployment benefits are being reduced sharply in Washington and Idaho.

Later this month, most unemployed workers will be cut off after 73 weeks of long-term payments in Washington, the state announced today. That’s down from the 99 weeks now available – a reduction of six months.

As a result, an estimated 12,500 Washington residents who are out of work will lose their benefits after April 21, state Employment Security officials estimate. More than 11,000 others will exhaust their benefits within eight weeks of that date, and another 40,000 people on unemployment are at risk of being dropped from the program in the final half of the year.

Long-term-benefits are funded by the federal government, and they kick on and off based on the state’s unemployment rate.

“We are at a difficult point, where our unemployment rate is greatly improved, yet still relatively high,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. “Losing up to six months of benefits will make the unemployment situation a lot more urgent for thousands of families.”

In Idaho, jobless workers will see their extended benefits reduced by 29 weeks, to a maximum of 44 weeks, the Idaho Department of Labor said.

About 300 unemployment insurance claimants in Idaho move from regular state benefits to federally financed extended benefits each week, the agency said.

Washington’s unemployment rate in February fell to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.

Idaho’s rate in February was 8 percent, the lowest since September 2009.

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