Congress has passed legislation extending federal unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed through the end of 2012. The unemployment extensions currently in place will remain until May.
Then federal extended benefits for long-term unemployed workers will be gradually reduced to 73 weeks in the states with the highest rates of unemployment and 63 weeks elsewhere. There will be changes in the number of weeks included in each tier, starting in September. Plus, the state unemployment rate must be at a certain level for the tiers to kick in, starting in June.
In addition, the legislation would permit states to require drug tests for unemployment recipients who who lost their jobs due to drug use or whose new jobs would require drug testing. Unemployed workers will be required to job search, which is currently the case in many locations.
Here's a summary of the changes:
For updates on your eligibility for extended benefits, check with your state unemployment website.