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Unemployment Insurance Cuts in the Latest Deal

February 15, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

It’s not official yet, but it appears that Democrats and Republicans in Congress are on the verge of striking a deal on extending the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits. While the payroll tax holiday would be continued in its current form under the deal, the policies governing extended unemployment insurance for the would change significantly. Under the deal, long-term unemployed workers in most states would see their maximum length of benefits restricted, and they may face new drug testing and job retraining requirements to continue receiving benefits. Here are the details of the the deal as it currently stands, according to an outline obtained by CNN:

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60 More Days of the Same

December 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

So, House Republicans have completed their cave in and agreed unanimously to the Senate's two month extension of the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance, and other policies that were scheduled to expire on December 31st. There's a lot of buzz about how this is good for Obama on the political level, but let's be clear -- all this agreement does is extend the status quo. Nothing in this bill would provide new stimulus to boost the economy or create jobs. And it will only last for 60 days, after which point the payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment insurance benefits are at serious risk of being reduced.

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For months, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been talking about the need to come together on a plan to extend several policies that will expire at the end of the year. But with just a handful of days left before the holiday break, the two sides are only growing further apart on how to get it done.

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With the new year quickly approaching, the single most important thing for Congress to do (besides keep the government funded) is to reauthorize the federal extension of unemployment insurance. If they don't, more than 2 million unemployed people will lose their benefits by mid-February and the drag on demand for goods and services would hit the economy quickly and could send us back into a recession.

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Supercommittee Failure and Stimulus

November 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While the failure of the supercommittee may be a good thing for long-term deficit reduction, it's not great for what Congress should really be working on -- supporting the economic recovery in the near term. There was some hope that if the supercommittee reached a deal, it would include an extension of some of the fiscal stimulus measures that are set to expire at the end of December. With no deal, the route to sustaining these measures is more difficult, and that threatens the small gains in employment we've seen in recent months.

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Dems Intro Bills to Extend Unemployment Insurance

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With all jobs bills dead and the supercommittee almost certain to deadlock, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone legislation to protect the hardest-hit victims of the recession -- the long-term unemployed.

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Prospects Dim for Unemployment Insurance Extension

October 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American Jobs Act contains a provision that would be extremely stimulative in terms of GDP expansion and jobs growth while also providing direct relief to the workers who have been hardest hit by the recession. Yet in discussions over which parts of the bill to keep for inclusion in a smaller, bipartisan package after the American Jobs Act is officially killed, that provision doesn't seem to be popular.

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Will the Unemployed Be Left Behind?

September 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For the past few years on OpenCongress, the hottest issue by far has been unemployment, specifically, keeping extended unemployment insurance benefits from lapsing while the jobless rate remains high. The current extended unemployment benefits program, which lasts up to 99 weeks in states with unemployment rates above 8.5%, has been reauthorized five times and its current authorization is scheduled to expire at the end of December. President Obama is expected to propose another reauthorization in his big jobs speech tonight, but it's not clear that Congress is going to be willing to extend them once again.

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One of the final acts of the last session of Congress was passing legislation to keep extended unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed available into 2012. Their reason for doing so was, of course, to ensure that the hardest-hit victims of the '08 economic crisis would have some form of financial support while the jobs market remains weak. Well, the jobs market is still weak, but Republicans in the House are moving to scale back the extended unemployment insurance benefits with a new bill they are calling the "Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Services Act of 2011," or the "JOBS Act."

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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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Every week, 35,000 unemployed Americans reach the end of their insurance benefits without finding new jobs and join the ranks of a growing group of recession victims known as the "99ers." According to the Congressional Budget Office, there are at least 1.4 million 99ers right now, and with the unemployment rate expected to stay high for several years, it's statistically certain that that number will increase dramatically in the coming months.

Given the facts of the situation, some congressional Democrats are pushing legislation to extend the unemployment insurance lifeline to help relieve the hardship these people are facing. On Wednesday, Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] reintroduced a bill in the new Congress that would add 14 weeks to the current federal unemployment insurance system and provide those benefits retroactively for people who have already exhausted all their benefits. Lee introduced her bill, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act, with 47 co-sponsors -- all Democrats -- and according to rumors she is already up to 60.

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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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With the giant Defense budget, the tax-cut extensions, the bailouts, and the lack of tax reciepts from the economic crisis, the ceiling on our national debt is going to have to be increased, by the end of March according to Tim Geithner, if we are to avoid defaulting on our debt and destroying whatever modicum of creditworthiness we have left in the international community.

Voting to raise the debt ceiling is always unpopular, and its must-pass nature makes it a perfect tool for the minority party to force the majority to register an unpopular vote. Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2] admitted as much last year, arguing that the unpopular debt ceiling vote was not his party's responsibility. "That is the burden of the majority," he said.

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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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