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Schumer Promises Help for 99ers, But Skips the Details

August 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The most shocking data point on the unemployment situation in the U.S. isn’t that we’ve been above 9% for almost a year and a half now. It’s that the median length of unemployment for individuals currently is 26 weeks, which is twice as long as it has ever been since the government began tracking this data in the ‘60s. Anyone who is unemployed for longer than 26 weeks is considered “long-term unemployed” by the government. Right now, that’s about half of all unemployed people, and it will likely be more than half in the very near future. Here’s a graph from the St. Louis Fed laying it out.

Over the past two years, Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment insurance benefits beyond the normal 26-week period. Currently, unemployed individuals in states with high unemployment rates (above 8.5%) can receive up to 99 weeks of benefits. But all of those extended benefits are set to expire on November 30, 2010 and after that it will be back to just 26 weeks of benefits in every state. Furthermore, economists estimate that at least 1 million people have already exhausted all 99 weeks of their benefits (so-called “99ers”). By the time the current benefits extension runs out in November, that number will probably be closer to 2 million, and approximately 1.5 million people each week will be added to the ranks of the exhausts.

Unless, of course, Congress acts.

In light of all this, watch Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] last week on WENY-TV:

Schumer says that a bill to help 99ers is coming — at some point — and gives no further details. In some sense, this is a step forward for the 99ers. It shows that members of Congress are hearing them and that they are starting take on the cause at least for their political advantage. But we don’t have enough information at this point to know if this is anything more than that. Here are a few things to watch for when the bill is introduced.

1) What, exactly, will Schumer’s legislation look like? Will it be straight-up additional weeks of benefits for 99ers, some kind of reemployment account program, or a job-training benefits program? The latter two options would probably have more support among conservative Democrats and Republicans, but they will also provide somewhat less support to the 99ers.

2) Does it have the support of the leadership (i.e. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] and House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8])? If not, this is just a throw-away bill that Schumer plans to drop in the hopper and let die like 96% of all bills do. Of the 140 bills Schumer has sponsored this session, only 3 of them have become law. As we know, any member of Congress can introduce any bill they want, and they often introduce stuff they know has 0% chance of passing just to give themselves quick credentials on an issue. So far, Reid and Pelosi have been silent on help for the 99ers, so it’s possible that this is a lone-wolf effort on Schumer’s part and that it’s not really going to be a viable bill.

In the interview Schumer says “we” (i.e. “we’re gonna try to do that next”), so it’s possible that he’s referring to the Democratic caucus as a whole. But he could also be referring to himself and a few rank-and-file co-sponsors. We’ll be watching for statements of support from Reid and others when the bill is introduced. 

3) Will it be offset, and, if so, how? Over the past two years, support for extending unemployment benefits as “emergency spending,” which does not have to be offset under the Pay-Go law, has progressively weakened. In November 2009, the Senate voted 97-1 for such a bill. In March 2010, they voted 78-19 for another unpaid UI extension. And on July 20, 2010 they passed one with no votes to spare by a vote of 60-40. The trend is pretty obvious — as time progresses, there is less and less support for emergency unemployment insurance extensions. And in July the Democrats were stretched to their limit on their emergency UI bill. 

Many Republicans (plus Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson [NE]) say they would have voted for the July bill if its costs were offset with money taken from the Recovery Act. However, using stimulus money to fund another extension that includes help for the 99ers probably wouldn’t pass muster with most Democrats. They argue, rightly, that taking money out of the Recovery Act to pay for UI benefits neutralizes the stimulative effects of both. Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] recently forced a vote on paying for the UI bill with Recovery Act money and it was opposed by all but two Democrats — Nelson and Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR].

So, if Schumer wants to pass this bill, he will probably have to offset its costs with new revenues and do it some way other than taking money from the Recovery Act. Off the top of my head, possibilities include closing tax loopholes on hedge funds, eliminating offshore-oil-drilling subsidies, or some sort of a financial transactions tax. None of those things would be easy, but it seems almost impossible for Schumer and the Democrats to pass extra unemployment insurance benefits and help for the 99ers without winning on one of these big, untapped revenue sources.

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Comments

Displaying 1-30 of 139 total comments.

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    cralford 08/02/2010 3:10pm

    Call it what you want justamick. I would like to hear your slant on things if you wind up with the unemployed. I felt the same way you did and thought my job was very secure until they started letting 40 to 47 people go a week and shipped out the work to India.

    Try to get an engineering job when you are 59. Fortunately I found a job last week as a computer operator making 1/3 of my previous wages and feel lucky to have it. I had been applying for those type of jobs for a year and this was the first actual interview I got. It was the old over qualified issue.

    I agree that our government was safety net programs were not intended to handle the massive number of unemployed we currently have. I also don’t think our government was supposed to incentivise employers to farm out our jobs to other countries.

    I agree with pf1065. What is your solution??? Hire more police so no one steals from your garden?

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    jas73 08/02/2010 4:19pm

    It’s very easy for people to criticize who aren’t unemployed. I’m on Tier 4 right now and one of the “99’ers” this article represents. I have a Bachelor’s degree (graduated cum laude), over 10 years of professional experience on my resume with NO bad records/history with any of my previous employers. I have no criminal record, and most importantly, I have no family that can help me once the EUC runs out. I’ve been out of work since 2/16/2009 – laid off from Deloitte Tax due to cutbacks – not performance. What say you now grand wizard?

    So easy for people like you to criticize – I hope the day comes when you’re facing true suffering so I can comment how irrelevant your needs are. People like you make me sick.

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    kaputter 08/05/2010 9:29am

    Some jobs will never come back. Like Financial Services. I suggest you look at related fields, start your own business, or even take one of many open jobs THAT ARE OUT THERE. My cousin worked for Merrill Lynch as an admin asst’ She lost her job and will never get it back, at least in the financial services corps. She has gone back to school and is in the health care industry. She refuses to eat that govt cheese any longer than she has to.

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    Tankweti 08/02/2010 5:03pm

    Lost my job 8/12/08. Entire dept med record transcription outsourced to India. I had 25 years+. NYS DOL says these jobs are in the top 10 most likely to be outsourced. Was already in nursing school part time. Started going full time. Grad in May 2010, cum laude, dept. honors, Intl Nsg Honor Society and guess what. Can’t find a job. I have applied plenty.With the exception of one employer who answered and said they had no new grad positions, no one has even bothered to respond to resumes, emails, etc. Now come to find out after the fact that it costs over $20,000 to train a new R.N. Read one post 2009 that a NYC hospital advertised 7 new grad positions and got 1,600 applicants. What do we retrain for next if there are no nursing jobs? Janitor positions? (That’s if we can find them.) So, don’t talk to me about not renewing unemployment benefits. This is necessary. Just like the other guy said, wait til it happens to you. And if you think it won’t you are living in a fool’s paradise.

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    niteshide 08/03/2010 2:00pm

    JUSTAMICK IS BEING JUSTADICK!!!!

  • pf1065 08/02/2010 12:23pm

    How could you feel for us and not support extending benefits? I don’t see a solution in your comment, which makes it kind of pointless. If you are out of work for 99 weeks your livelihood is GONE, not threatened. Oh, and unemployment is not welfare. I worked for thirty years before I lost my job, and guess what. Some of those pesky with-holdings go towards unemployment INSURANCE if you, God forbid, need it.

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    justamick 08/02/2010 12:44pm

    You obviously dont understand the definition of welfare. It IS welfare. At 99 weeks, it isnt your money that is going into unemployment, it’s the taxpayer’s that is. THAT is welfare.

    If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty, you should only get out of Unemployment what you put in it. Nothing more, nothing less. When it is gone, it is gone.

    The real solution? It isnt easy for people to comprehend as most liberals belive that it is the Government’s responsiblity to provide financial responsiblity when it really is not.

    I take exception to your tone and find it rather insulting. I feel for those of you out there beyond your 99 weeks in my own way. I support the iniatives of private charities to help bring those back from the brink.

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    justamick 08/02/2010 12:45pm
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    *provide financial security not responsiblity.

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    justamick 08/02/2010 12:47pm
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    Also, I never said that Unemployment was welfare… My words implied it but I never said it…

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    beenblue 08/04/2010 6:49pm

    YES YOU DID, UNDER READ MY POST ON THE DEFINITION OF WELFARE, AND BY THE WAY, TO IMPLY BY WAY OF SUGGESTION IS THE SAME AS SAYING IT.

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    justamick 08/04/2010 9:27pm

    Quoted verbatim from the OP: “The burden is being placed back on the tax payer. Our society was never meant to be a welfare society where the collective provides for everyone else. It is the building blocks that lend to the creation of Marxism through wealth redistrobution. It is WRONG!”

    Definitions of welfare were posted AFTER the OP. Even highlighted the exact sentence for you. Posts are in chronological order, in-case you’re confused.

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    jas73 08/02/2010 4:24pm
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    Hey idiot…we still pay taxes on our EUC benefits. You make it sound like everyone on EUC is lazy or without any type of responsibility in their lives.

    I hope you take exception to my tone as well. What do you expect? You come to a site and spout off hateful prose towards people in circumstances you don’t have direct experience of and expect us to sit here and kowtow to your infinite wisdom?

    How about shutting up til you actually have direct experience to base an opinion on.

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    justamick 08/03/2010 9:53am

    Oh, could you please explain how I made everyone on EUC sound lazy? Or how about you tell me how what I said was hateful?

    Did I once even utter the words “get off your ass and find a job?” NO! I simply stated that indefinately extending Unemployment was UNSUSTAINABLE.

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    PartCherokee 08/03/2010 3:51am

    I am about to become a 99er and I am very upset.

    I understand that extented benefits is welfare. It sickens me to realize it. All anyone actually puts into unemployment is 26 weeks the rest is by the grace of the government. I do not think that Justamick was being cruel just honest. Honesty can hurt like hell.

    Although the extended benefits is welfare, the government created this problem through greed. Unemployment is treating a symptom not the disease. This economic problem is because of the government not us. Therefore I feel that they do owe us the means to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bodies. Unemployment is by no means easy street. Have you ever heart someone say “Congratulations you get to collect unemployment”? Neither have I. Just check out the number of people who are unemploymed, becoming 99ers and the available jobs. Some jobs will never return. The facts speak for themselves. Enough said.

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    justamick 08/03/2010 9:40am

    Thank you.

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    seanurse 08/04/2010 5:36am

    justamick—— You are so right, not, above you state that at 99weeks that it isnt our money going into unemployment but the tax payers are. HMMMMMMMMMMM the only thing is everyone on unemployment is a taxpayer. we pay taxes on our unemployment, so i guess it’s not welfare asshole. As the saying goes what goes around comes around. God bless everyone in need this rainy day.

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    justamick 08/04/2010 8:42am

    You need to go back and read what I was saying, instead of taking bits and peices of what I was saying and applying hidden meanings.

    Out of curiousity, would you call the doctor that has told you that you have three months to live an asshole just because he has something you dont want to hear? Guess what? All I’ve done is communicated the true status of our country’s financial situation. SOMETHING has to be done…

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    justamick 08/04/2010 8:45am

    Lets speak hypothetically, do you expect unemployment to be extended indefinately? What if you dont find a job for 3 years? That’s 13 months beyond the point where many of the 99ers are at right now. What, exactly, would you have Congress do? Keep extending unemployment until every person beyond 99 weeks has a job?

    The fact of the matter is it is unsustainable.

    As for your unemployment being taxed, think of this whatever amount you pay into taxes is going to be less than what you recieve in unemployment. That amount has to be made up somewhere… Where exactly do you think that comes from? That’s right, the government which means it is STILL welfare.

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    justamick 08/04/2010 8:52am

    Why would any of you wish people you dont even know to experience the kind of misery that 27 million people are experiencing in this country? Why would you say “what goes around, comes around” when I’ve said nothing to deserve that kind of treatment? I’m am sorry that the words I had to say were not taken well. I really am, the words I had to say were not meant to be a catalyst for antagonation, they were meant to convey an observation of the current employment and financial status that this country finds itself in. I’m sorry that you who have responded do not recognize it.

    I pray every day that each one of the people across this country is taken care of; that they are watched over and I do my part, without the Government’s intervention, to try to help as much as I am able to.

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    justamick 08/04/2010 8:53am

    One final word, then I’m going to stop responding to the hateful speech being spewed here…
    You need to get through your heads that it was DEMORATIC & REPUBLICAN Congress’s and REPUBLICAN & DEMOCRATIC presidents that got this country into this mess. The mess we are in comes from DECADES of a mismanaged Government and runaway spending. No Democrat or Republican will be able to fix this mess because they ARE the problem. Stop being pawns of the Republicans and Democrats. Your lives are just a political playing ground for both parties, neither one cares about any of us. Learn to recognize that and we all together can take back our country.

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    justamick 08/02/2010 12:52pm

    the definition of a welfare state: a government that undertakes responsibility for the welfare of its citizens through programs in public health and public housing and pensions and unemployment compensation etc.

    Please, if you’re going to come over here and dispute the words I speak, at least back them up with one iota of fact.

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    beenblue 08/04/2010 6:30pm

    THE FUNDS YOU MENTION, HAVE BEEN A PLAY GROUND FOR EVERY PRESIDENT ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE. GOOD THING BUSH DIDN`T GET TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY, IT ALL WOULD HAVE GONE THE WAY OF THE 401K.

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