The Extended Benefit program is available for unemployed Arkansans, providing up to eight additional weeks of unemployment insurance to those who exhaust both regular unemployment benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), according to a news release.

The Arkansas Department of Commerce, Division of Workforce Services (DWS) announced June 29 that the Extended Benefit program went into effect in Arkansas during the week ending June 6 as a result of Arkansas’ insured unemployment rate reaching 5 percent.

The Extended Benefit program is different from the PEUC program, which began in April 2020. Individuals who exhaust their 16 weeks of regular unemployment insurance can then apply for PEUC to receive benefits for another 13 weeks, according to the release.

If a claimant exhausts PEUC, they can apply for the Extended Benefit program. To qualify for Extended Benefits, the claimant must exhaust PEUC during the Extended Benefit period. The Extended Benefit period will last at least 13 weeks, beginning with the week ending June 6 and ending once the insured unemployment rate drops back below 5 percent.

The insured unemployment rate represents the unemployed workforce covered by Arkansas’ unemployment insurance program. The total state unemployment rate, which was 9.5 percent in May, is not the same as the insured unemployment rate. The total state unemployment rate represents both those unemployed in the workforce who are covered by the state’s UI program as well as those who are not covered, such as the self-employed and independent contractors.

Normally, the Extended Benefit program is funded 50 percent from the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and 50 percent from the federal unemployment fund. However, as a result of the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs for all Extended Benefit claims established before Dec. 31, 2020.

DWS is in the process of identifying and notifying all individuals who are potentially eligible for the new Extended Benefit program. Those who believe they may be potentially eligible should wait to receive a notice in the mail before contacting a DWS office, according to the news release.