Thousands of Iowans are eligible for additional unemployment benefits. Kerry Koonce of the Iowa Workforce Development Agency says her agency is sending out 20,000 letters today to those who are eligible. “Some of them are for individuals who qualify for the additional week under what the federal government calls tier two of the benefits,” Koonce says. “And some of them to individuals who have completely exhausted their benefits, which is about 10,000 of the individuals who are now eligible for tier three as well.”

That means those 10,000 Iowans can get “emergency” unemployment for up to 14 more weeks. Koonce says this will extend the “safety net” to those who’ve been out of a job for nearly a year or longer. “This recession that we’re currently in has just hit every industry and every professional level within those industries,” Koonce says, “so it’s really spread out across the state as far as the different kinds of companies and industries that these individuals are affected in.”

Koonce says the letters which are being sent to Iowans give specific instructions for how they can sign up for and receive the “emergency” unemployment benefits. “About two weeks ago the president signed off on the of the new Worker Assistance Act of 2009 which is what provides these benefits and then it takes the federal government a little bit of time to get it organized and sent out,” Koonce says.

“So there are people that have heard that the president has signed off on these benefits, but they’re not quite sure yet and of course, we’ve got roughly 10,000 who have been out of benefits for a while that are going to benefit from this which is good for those individuals.” Koonce says each of the 20,000 Iowans who are being notified should receive a letter in the mail by the end of the week, as the notices are being mailed today.