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Unemployment benefits
Unemployment benefits
Janet Nafeha, 35, was laid off in December and is now an MBA student.
Question: "I noticed that unemployment benefits will be extended by 33 weeks in states deemed to have high unemployment rates. Exactly which states are these? I think a lot of people are thinking that this extension applies to every state since it was in the stimulus. Is this not the case? Please clarify for everyone." - Janet Nafeha, Houston

Experts: CNNMoney.com policy writers Tami Luhby and Jeanne Sahadi

Answer: While the unemployed may not qualify for the Make Work Pay credit, the stimulus bill does include several things for them. First, it increases benefits by about $25 per week. (The current average weekly benefit is $297). That is $10 per week more than the wage-earners will get. Over 26 weeks, they get up to $400. Over 26 weeks, the unemployment benefit is worth $650.

The bill also extends unemployment benefits for an additional 20 weeks beyond the standard 26. President Bush had extended the benefits by an extra 13 weeks last summer, then by another seven weeks in November. But that plan (worth 46 total weeks) was set to expire in March. So the stimulus keeps the 46-week total in place through Dec. 31.

If you've already filed for unemployment benefits and have used up 10 of your weekly claims, you can file for 36 more weeks. If you would have hit the standard 26-week limit in March, this now allows you to keep claiming for an additional 20 weeks.

Further, stimulus provides for 13 more benefit weeks for those living in a high-unemployment state, which are those with an unemployment rate higher than 6%. To see the whole list, visit our interactive map.

Finally, the first $2,400 of benefits in 2009 would be exempt from federal income taxes.

NEXT: Deciphering COBRA credit
Last updated February 24 2009: 6:58 AM ET
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