For D.C. residents who are jobless or who may soon lose their jobs, the new fiscal year that started Oct. 1 represents a welcome change.
District residents are now eligible for up to $425 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits, or $1,700 a month, for up to half a year if they lose employment due to layoffs or other factors outside their control. Although the change is under a hundred dollars more than the $359 currently allowed each week, it’s the first time D.C.’s unemployment insurance benefits have risen in roughly a decade. The increase also brings the District in line with Maryland’s and Virginia’s programs for unemployment insurance, which provide weekly maximums of $430 and $378, respectively.
“We’re trying to be competitive with other states,” a spokeswoman for Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s office says.
According to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, the changes involve more than just the weekly maximum increase. “Workers who have part-time employment will be able to keep more of their [unemployment insurance] benefits,” analyst Ilana Boivie explains. “For instance, a worker earning $100/week while receiving [unemployment insurance] benefits will have her benefits reduced by $33 instead of by $64. This will make it easier for unemployed workers to take a part-time job while looking for a permanent full-time job.” All claimants can receive 26 weeks of unemployment insurance if needed. Additionally, beginning next September, the Department of Employment Services, which administers D.C.’s unemployment insurance program, must by law account for inflation and explain its decisions to maintain or raise unemployment insurance maximums.
Residents who currently receive unemployment benefits and who meet new monetary eligibility requirements will receive a “redetermination letter in the mail indicating the new weekly benefit amount,” a spokeswoman for DOES says. “If they do not meet the new monetary eligibility requirements, they will receive a letter in the mail indicating their weekly benefit amount will remain the same.” (More information on eligibility can be found here.)
The raise comes as the District moves toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2020 and considers one of the most robust paid leave benefits in the country. Approximately 6 percent of D.C. residents were unemployed as of August, per preliminary data.