The District announced this week that it has increased the maximum weekly benefit amount from $425 to $432.
This modest increase is the result of a big change in how the District calculates benefits. For more than 10 years, the maximum benefit rate stagnated at $359 per week, one of the lowest in the country. In 2016, a coalition of unemployed workers, union representatives, and advocates – including Legal Aid – petitioned the D.C. Council for an increase in benefits. Our efforts led to significant changes, including an increase in the maximum benefit from $359 to $425 per week, and a requirement that the Department of Employment Services review the maximum benefit each year.
In the first five months after the new law went into effect, more than 12,000 claimants received an increase averaging $1,344 per claimant, meaning more than $16 million in additional benefits was distributed to the District’s unemployed workers.
Now, for the first time, the District increased benefits after the required annual review. The implementation of an automatic review process will help prevent the District’s benefits from falling far behind the cost of living, as they did from 2005 to 2016.