As part of the nation's UI system, overseen by DOL, states provide benefits to eligible unemployed workers, with additional weeks of benefits sometimes provided by the federal government in times of economic stress. Since the 1960s, states have had maximum UI benefit durations of 26 weeks or longer. However, since 2011, nine states have reduced their maximum benefit durations: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina. GAO was asked to review the states' reductions. GAO examined (1) the circumstances in which states reduced the maximum duration of UI benefits, (2) the implications of these reductions for individuals, (3) the effects on federal UI costs, and (4) their broader economic effects. GAO reviewed relevant federal and state laws; visited Georgia and Michigan, which had different approaches to reducing durations; analyzed UI program data from 2006 (before the recession) to 2014; and reviewed relevant economic research.
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