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(Washington, DC) – With the District of Columbia’s unemployment rate dropping to its lowest point in three years comes both good news and bad news. The good news is that more District residents are finding work, and the District is experiencing the slow but steady economic recovery that the nation as a whole is experiencing. The bad news is that the US Department of Labor (DOL) has notified the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) that, due to the unemployment rate’s steady decline, the District will no longer qualify to participate in the federally-funded Extended Benefits (EB) Program. A little over 1,600 DC residents will be impacted when the program ends on Saturday, June 9. The Extended Benefits Program expired in Virginia in May 2011 and in Maryland in April 2012.
The District’s EB Program has been in effect since March 2009 and is designed to provide additional benefits to eligible unemployed workers who have exhausted all regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and all Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits during periods of high unemployment. However, the federal EB Program remains in effect only if the District of Columbia remains in a High Unemployment Period (HUP), and the District of Columbia has been notified that it is no longer in a HUP after the most recent unemployment figures were issued by the Department of Labor on May 18, 2012.
DC’s unemployment rate has dropped 0.4 percent since the beginning of the year – from a January unemployment rate of 9.9 percent to an April unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, which triggered the end of the EB Program. Residents who live in some Wards in the District, however, continue to experience unemployment levels nearly twice the national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, and nearly three times or more higher than the Washington Metropolitan Division unemployment rate of 5.6 percent. Unemployment rates in Wards 5, 7, and 8 were 11.2 percent, 13.8 percent, and 20.8 percent, respectively, for the month of April.
DOES remains dedicated to doing everything possible to provide assistance to unemployed District residents who are impacted by the end of the Extended Benefits Program. “While we’re delighted to see the District’s unemployment rate continue to decline, which means residents are finding gainful employment, we are going to be proactive in our outreach to all District residents who will lose their benefits when the EB Program ends on June 9th,” said DOES Director Lisa María Mallory. “DOES will work vigorously to notify residents about education and training opportunities and other employment services that will help lead them to a meaningful job.”
DOES is planning to host a series of Path2Work pre-screening and hiring events designed to connect the unemployed, underemployed, veterans, and students to local employers and One City • One Hire employer partners who have viable employment opportunities in the Washington Metropolitan area. The Path2Work Job Seeker’s Symposium held in April had over 1,200 unemployed District residents in attendance with 65 pre-screened, qualified individuals receiving on-the-spot job offers at the event.
“The people losing their extended benefits are going to receive as much assistance from DOES as we can provide,” added Mallory. “We are tackling this issue head-on, and we will also collaborate with the Department of Human Services, the Housing Authority, and other DC government agencies to ensure that affected individuals receive the proper support and assistance during this difficult time.”