PERSPECTIVE: Unemployment benefits, transitioning to jobs

As federally funded unemployment benefits are phased out this month, those whose benefits are ending are encouraged to seek out the 40-plus full-service Missouri Career Centers around the state where a multitude of important services are available.

These include, but are not limited to, free skill assessments, career readiness certificates, and personal job search consultations.

Our state has at least 15,000 vacant positions, including jobs in the general merchandise industry, computer systems, and health care.

Missourians will have the chance to compete for these jobs by utilizing the Career Centers’ services and going back to school or learning a new skill.

Thousands have benefited from these services. In fact, the centers serve more than 2,000 people each day. The state of Missouri is ready to assist you at this time of transition from unemployment insurance into a job.

Citizens throughout the United States receiving unemployment benefits funded by the federal government will begin to see benefits phase out as early as Nov. 21, 2010.

For Missouri, that means approximately 66,000 people will not be eligible to receive any of the federally funded benefits because they will not meet the eligibility deadline. And 14,000 are expected to exhaust all benefits by Dec. 4, 2010.

However, for a great majority of those receiving benefits, this phase-out means they will continue to receive benefits for the tier or benefit program they are on until they exhaust them, providing claimants the assistance they need while looking for full-time work.

The objective for the unemployment insurance program is to provide monetary assistance to those who lost their job due to no fault of their own and until they find another job. For many, this program helped them do just that.

The division has served more than 570,000 people since 2008.

Over the past two years, with the assistance of the program, thousands of homes have avoided foreclosure, families were able to put food on the table, and job seekers pumped gas into their tanks to drive to and from the next interview.

During that same time, approximately 331,000 people stopped filing for benefits because many found full-time or temporary employment and no longer needed unemployment services.

In fact, unemployed Missourians collected an average of 19.6 weeks of regular unemployment benefits during a time when up to 99 weeks of regular and federal benefits were available.

Gracia Yancey Backer is director of Employment Security, Missouri Department of Labor.

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