CNN.com – Unemployed people has no fear any more, President Bush signed The Unemployment Extension Act of 2008 into law Friday, lengthening the period of government assistance to Americans struggling in the shrinking job market.

Those who live in a high unemployment states will receive a total of 20 more weeks and nearly half of the states fit that criteria as of October, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

To be eligible, you must be unemployed through no fault of your own and be actively seeking work. Requirements vary from state to state. Generally, wages earned and time on the job determines if you qualify and the level of assistance you will receive.

In most states that are based on what you earned over your base year – up to a certain amount. Every state sets its own maximum, based on that state’s average income. The average unemployment insurance benefit is $292 a week according to the Department of Labour.

Experts recommend filing for unemployment on your first day out of work. It generally takes two or three weeks after you file a claim to receive your first check. In most cases there is then a “waiting week,” and then you will receive your first unemployment insurance check the week after that.

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