- Extended benefits. Typically, you can collect benefits for 26 weeks. That has been stretched to 33 weeks in the new federal legislation. Additionally, many states are providing even longer coverage through state initiatives. You want to check in with your state—and keep checking in—to stay on top of all changes. The computer systems should automatically adjust for these changes, but it doesn't hurt to double-check.
- A higher payout. The stimulus bill mandates that all unemployment checks include an extra $25 a week through this year. So if you have been drawing a benefit, it will include $25 more; the payment should show up in benefits within the next few weeks.
- A tax break. Normally, money you receive in unemployment benefits must be reported as taxable income on your federal tax return. In 2009, there is a tax break: The first $2,400 you receive in unemployment is 100 percent tax-free.
- Expanded c overage. I also recommend that anyone who may have applied for benefits and been turned down in the past few months check back and reapply. The stimulus bill included funding targeted to getting states to expand their coverage of lower-income and part-time workers.
More recession rescue advice from Suze Orman