HELENA — Federal unemployment benefits are set to change for millions of Americans -- including 43,000 Montanans at the end of the month.
Montanans who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic have been able to collect an extra $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits, in addition to the amount they receive from the state.
That money comes from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FCUP) program. It was created in March by the CARES Act, and is set to end July 31.
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry says the change will have a significant impact on those receiving unemployment.
“If the FPUC expires on schedule, whatever they’re getting now would be $600 less,” said Paul Martin, administrator of the Unemployment Insurance Division
The amount of money Montanans receive through unemployment insurance is based on their past income and varies on a case to case basis
For many Montanans, the change will mean they’ll receive less than half the money they had been getting each week since FCUP was implemented.
Unemployment insurance and the federal benefit have been a lifeline for many families, but it was never intended to be a permanent solution.
“The intent of unemployment issuance is temporary assistance when someone is out of work through no fault of their own,” said Martin. “But it is temporary assistance, it is finite and doesn't go on forever.”
There are options for those facing unemployment.
In the Helena area alone there are nearly 700 jobs currently available, with some listed that let people work from home.
Helena Job Service Manager Carol Rule says many employers are in great need of workers to fill positions.
“It’s been difficult for them,” said Rule. “Of course it was difficult before the pandemic hit, but yes there still is a workforce shortage so it’s a great time to be a job seeker.”
Job Service is able to help people with their resumes, connect them with an employer, and get them set up for training for a job.
The office is currently closed to the public for COVID safety, but staff says they are ready and able to assist people over the phone and help get people back to work.
“For some people, we can connect them with an employer on the same day. Some it can take a few weeks, it all depends on the level of the occupation,” said Rule.
Since the peak of unemployment claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic in Montana during the week ending April 18, over 33,000 Montanans have gone back to work.
In addition, over 14,000 claimants are currently working part-time, and the Department of Labor and Industry continues to see total claims dropping by approximately 5,000 per week.
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