Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Temporary Unemployment Benefits – Now for 99 Weeks!

Unemployment benefits have been in the United States in one form or another since 1932. For most states, the maximum benefit period was 26 weeks. However, you can now draw unemployment benefits for 99 weeks in some states. That's just less than two years. If you lost your job through "no fault of your own", then you would be able to stay out of work for 99 weeks and receive a check from the government. Of course this check isn't as large as your standard paycheck, but it is a paycheck. The government has extended this benefit period through a number of "emergency extensions" that are set to run through the current economic crisis.

A few weeks ago, Senator Jim Bunning (Republican –Kentucky) objected to a bill that included an extension to the unemployment benefits. This was billed as another heartless Republican trying to screw the common man. However, Bunning had a legitimate concern. Early in February, President Obama signed into law a Paygo bill. This means any new spending must be offset with some sort of savings to pay for the bill. Democrats in the Senate labeled the bill an emergency bill meaning it is exempted from Paygo (for the record, every bill the Democrats have tried to pass since Paygo passed has been considered an emergency bill). However, Bunning had a solution: take the funds from the unspent portion of the Stimulus bill. That would be approximately $15 Billion for the recent bill out of the $787 Billion stimulus bill.

Not every Republican supported Bunning in this effort. John Kyl said that while he didn't agree with holding up the bill, he did feel that Senator Bunning had a point. According to the Washington Post, "…about 11.4 million out-of-work people now collect unemployment compensation, at a cost of $10 billion a month. Half of them have been receiving payments for more than six months, the usual insurance limit. But under multiple extensions enacted by the federal government in response to the downturn, workers can collect the payments for as long as 99 weeks in states with the highest unemployment rates -- the longest period since the program's inception." Also according to the Post," …14.9 million jobless Americans have been out of work an average of 29.7 weeks, just below January's 30.2-week average. Those levels are the highest since the government began keeping those records in the 1950s…"

The point of this post is not that we should stop all unemployment benefits. My point is that 99 weeks is very excessive. Our Senate and Congress can't figure how to pay for an extension to the program, let alone the full 99 weeks for those people on it. When they are offered a chance to pay for it, they resort to dirty political tactics to charge the bill to the taxpayer credit card. Our Congress and our President are fighting the wrong problem. If they would learn to drop their white whale of a Health Care bill, and focus on creating jobs, we wouldn't need a 99 week unemployment benefit period.


Connie said...

I agree they should focus on job creation but I have a point I would like to make. Behind those UI checks are people who are just like you. I worked for 25 years for the same company but one day they decided I was no longer needed. They could hire 3 people off the street w/ no benefits. I am now 54 w/ 3 college degrees and NO one will hire me even at 1/3 of my former salary. I have been scammed by illegal employers and have received 2 replies
for the 825 resumes I have sent out. Do you still think 99 Weald are excessive? I paid ui out of 30 years of working and never questioned why, because it went to people who needed help. Your focus should be on the rats who brought our country to it's knees, not the victims I want a job that pays a livable wage so I can keep the home I worked so hard to buy but will lose. Instead of pointing fingers be a part of the solution. Can you find me a job because I can't
Connie Dodd
Somerville, nj

Andy D said...

I don't want to dismiss your situation, or sound like I am. I feel for you, and I know people who are out of work and having trouble finding jobs.

On Friday, the Senate debated adding another month unto unemployment benefits. Do I still think 99 weeks is excessive? Yes. The price tag on the one month extension was $6 Billion. I think our country would be better served by making it easier for small businesses to expand, and to open their doors. 48% of Americans are employed by small business. Instead of taxing employers and capital to death, we should be lowering, or removing those taxes so that it is more profitable to go into business here in the United States. If we did that, maybe you could find a job quicker, or maybe it might even make sense for you to start your own company.

Anonymous said...

I am a school teacher in the state of Oklahoma and have been laid of for the 2nd time in about 7 years. It is very disheartening for this to happen. Oklahoma is in a severe budget crisis right now and I know many other states are in the same shape. I am strongly considering getting out of education and doing something else. I am bilingual so I think that will help.