By: Tony Gonzalez, The Tennessean
Tennessee's long-term unemployed - those out of work for more than 26 weeks - will get smaller benefit checks beginning next week due to automatic federal budget cuts.
The reduction, due to the federal sequester that took effect March 1, will impact an estimated 30,000 people in Tennessee, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and as many as 1.8 million workers nationwide.
After receiving a maximum of 26 weeks of state-funded payments, the long-term unemployed can apply to receive payments for an additional 37 weeks through the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Payments from that program will be reduced by 10.7 percent.
In Tennessee, the average weekly unemployment check is $235, which means the average recipient could lose nearly $630 over the next six months, according to federal data.
"People will see this reduction next week," said Jeff Hentschel, labor department spokesman. "We did our best to notify everyone. We have not received a large number of calls for all of this."
Callers this week to the state's unemployment claims call center could listen to a message explaining the change. The availability of funding for the next fiscal year, heading into 2014, has not been determined.
The reduction may not be the last to impact the state's jobless this year.
State lawmakers are now considering a proposal to cut dependent benefits for the unemployed.
Currently, parents and caretakers can receive an additional $15 per week for each dependent - capped at $50. The proposed elimination advanced in the legislature this week with little opposition.
Tennessee's average weekly payment of $235 ranks fourth-lowest in the nation, and the maximum weekly payment of $275 ranks sixth lowest, according to federal data.
Reach Tony Gonzalez at 615-259-8089 or firstname.lastname@example.org.