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If the Congressional Black Caucus wants to pass H.R.589 and help the long-term unemployed, this is not the way to go about it:

In an exchange during their meeting last Wednesday with the President, CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver called the cost of the 99ers bill (H.R. 589 sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee of California) “prohibitive.”

In Rep. Cleaver’s words: “It was what I expected because my staff had done a lot of research on it.  And we found that the cost of that program would be between $14 and 20 billion dollars which is cost prohibitive. 

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Progress for 99ers Legislation

March 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Reps. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] and Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] have been hustling on the Hill to help the long-term unemployed. Since they introduced their bill to extend unemployment insurance to the approximately 3.9 million people who have been out of work for more than two years and have exhausted their benefits -- so-called "99ers" -- they have almost doubled their list of co-sponsors. And now they've secured a meeting with the Republican House leadership to discuss ways that the bill could be offset and, presumably, moved ahead in the legislative process.

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GOP Blocks Vote on Unemployment Extension for 99ers

February 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Job losses in the recession peaked almost exactly two years ago, and the situation has barely improved since. Current law allows unemployed workers to receive a maximum of two years of unemployment insurance benefits, so millions of people who lost their jobs in the recession are getting cut off from government support right now with little chance of finding work. These folks are often referred to as "99ers," 99 being the maximum number of benefit weeks. Despite the situation, House Republicans yesterday used an arcane rule to block an amendment that would have provided 14 more weeks of benefits for th

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Is there hope for 99ers in the 112th Congress?

January 25, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American 99ers Union, a coalition of groups advocating for people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks, have announced that Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] will reintroduce her bill from the previous session of Congress to extend the total length of time a person can collect unemployment insurance by 14 weeks and provide the new benefits retroactively to people who have already exhausted all of their benefits. Now, the mere introduction of a bill is not in itself a newsworthy event, especially when it's being introduced by a liberal Democrat in a conservative, Republican-controlled chamber. But the 99ers Unions is suggesting that the new bill will be paid for, and, depending on the details, that could be enough to make it at least within the realm of possibility that it could see action this session.

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A New Bill for 99ers, But Is It Too Late?

December 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

With very few days left in the 111th session of Congress, Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] and Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3], both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have introduced new legislation to provide relief to unemployed workers who have exhausted all available insurance benefits and are still unemployed (i.e. the "99ers"). The bill, H.R. 6556, would not add a fifth tier of federal benefits. Instead, it would extend the length of the first tier of benefits from 20 weeks to 34 weeks and allow 99ers to collect the additional 14 weeks retroactively.

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The Democrats' epic cave-in on the Bush tax cuts is now complete. Late Thursday night, by a vote of 277-148, the House of Representatives approved a deal brokered by President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend, for two years, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for a one-year extension of the filing deadline for federal unemployment insurance. Because the version passed by the House is identical to the bill passed by the Senate earlier this week, it will be sent to Obama immediately and is expected to be signed into law later today.

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99ers Crisis About to Get Much Worse

December 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

I've been trying to make the point that the 99er problem -- people exhausting all unemployment benefits without finding a job -- is about to get much worse because we're approaching 99 weeks from the brunt of the recession unemployment spike. Congress is not planning to add more weeks of unemployment benefits and the Federal Reserve is projecting the unemployment rate to stay pretty much where it is for the next year. Putting it all together, this means that for the foreseeable future, there will no jobs and no government support for the millions of 99ers.

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Hot on the heels of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee's [D, TX-18] statement Thursday on the House floor that an extension of unemployment insurance for 99ers should be added to Obama's tax deal, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced that adding 99ers relief is essential for winning the support of their members. "The CBC has reached a consensus on three areas that we believe we can unite behind, Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] said at a press conference on Friday. "First, we support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so called 99ers -- those who are exhausting the benefits they have."

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Finally, a sign that at least someone in the crew of House Democrats leading the revolt against Obama's tax deal with the Republicans is fighting to add additional weeks of unemployment benefits. In a floor speech yesterday calling for "a reasoned conversation," Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18] argued that a middle-income tax relief package should include a new tier of unemployment insurance benefits for those who have exhausted all available benefits. Jackson-Lee is among the 53 Democrats who signed a letter expressing opposition to the Obama tax deal.

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The Federal Reserve has lowered the expectations for economic growth and is not expecting any significant change in the unemployment rate for the next couple of years:

Unemployment is set to remain higher for longer than previously thought, according to new projections from the Federal Reserve that would mean more than 10 million Americans remain jobless through the 2012 elections - even as a separate report shows corporate profits reaching their highest levels ever.

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There are plenty of issues standing in the way of getting the unemployment extension done in the lame duck -- lack of time, concerns over the deficit, political insecurity after the midterms, etc. Here's one we can try to nip in the bud.

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Dems Lowering Expectations for the Lame Duck Session

November 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Before the elections, congressional Democrats were talking about using the upcoming lame duck session for passing on a renewable energy standard bill, creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that complete high school or serve in the military, setting tariffs for countries that manipulate their currency, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and much more. But in the wake of their midterm "shellacking," they are quickly scaling back their ambitions. Inside sources who spoke with The Hill are saying not to expect anything beyond a continuing resolution to keep the government running until the end of the year and a debate on the expiring Bush tax cuts.

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This afternoon Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI] called for the Senate to pass, under unanimous consent, the "Americans Want to Work Act." The bill would add a fifth tier of unemployment insurance benefits in states with unemployment rates above 7.5%. The fifth tier would give an additional 20 weeks of benefits to unemployed people who have exhausted all of their available unemployment insurance benefits and have not yet found a job.

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Rep. Berkley Tells 99ers to Keep Waiting

September 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Finally, something like a real update for all the 99ers and unemployed exhaustees out there. Unfortunately, it's not very good. Via Arthur Delaney at HuffPo:

Rep. Shelley Berkley [D, NV] has introduced legislation (H.R. 6091) to help the "99ers" -- people who haven't found work after exhausting all 99 weeks of unemployment benefits available in some states -- but her first priority is preserving those 99 weeks.

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A Bill for the 99ers (and Other Exhaustees)

August 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As announced last night on the Ed Schultz show, Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI] has introduced legislation that would provide additional weeks of unemployment benefits payments for people who have reached the end of what is currently available to them in their state. The bill, which she's calling S. 3706 - the Americans Want to Work Act, would also extend and strengthen tax credits for employers that hire people who have been out of work for some time.

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