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Launching the Benefit Wiki Project

October 6, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

A few weeks ago I wrote about the wonderful work a community of OpenCongress users is doing to research information about pending unemployment legislation. These users had banded together in the comment threads for these bills, and were organizing calls to Senators and Representatives while offering support to one another.

This community formed in 2008, when an unemployment benefits extension was last before Congress. After (successfully) calling on lawmakers to approve that extension, they then set out to determine how each of the individual states would implement the 13-weeks of benefits payments approved by Congress.

Unfortunately, the number of Americans joining the ranks of the unemployed is still growing. With the prospect of another round of Emergency Unemployment Compensation in the congressional pipeline, it’s becoming more and more difficult for these individuals to determine just which benefits they’re qualified to receive.

We’re trying to make that easier with the new Benefit Wiki project here on OpenCongress. Users can find, and more importantly add, information about unemployment benefits in their state. They can also view information about organizations offering assistance and services, different training and education opportunities, and even locations for free health clinics or flu shots.

The Senate is set to vote tonight (if news reports can be believed) on a compromise package of extended benefits. The community of OpenCongress users are helping to break the story, and we’ll continue to work with them on Benefit Wiki to bring the latest information — from all 50 states — on unemployment benefits in the coming months. If you’d like to help, start here.

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