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The Unemployment Benefits Extension Explained By OC User nancym

September 22, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

The House today is set to vote on an extension of unemployment benefits. The comment threads on bills related to the issue have long been a valuable resource for people seeking information on unemployment benefits. For example, with huge interest in the House health care reform bill, the legislation generated 1,500 comments. By comparison, the page for H.R. 3548 has more than 2,500 comments. Its predecessor, H.R. 6867, had more than 57,000 comments. The community that has built up around these bills is a “community” in the truest sense of the word: the people know one another, there’s some infighting (and trolling), but generally individuals can find a sympathetic crowd who are knowledgeable about the issue and willing to help.

In the spirit of that community, I thought I would use comments from the H.R. 3548 thread as the core of this blog post. In particular, I’ll single out nancym, who has done a remarkable job of tracking the legislation, contacting lawmakers and committees, and keeping her fellow users informed.

To begin, nancym writes that the legislation is being considered under “suspension of the rules,” which she describes:

What’s important is that all those bills on the list that are brought to the floor are brought up together under “suspension,” the key part of that definition being “to dispose of non- controversial measures expeditiously.” I.e., All these other relatively unimportant bills that the Speaker considers are simply a matter of paperwork and little discussion because most will agree to pass them are brought up in clusters to save time for more important bills.

HR 3548 is squeezed into this batch under suspension because it is the fastest way to get this bill out of the House, AND it would seem that the Speaker’s estimation is that the bill would face little opposition in the House. Furthermore, according to suspension rules, the time for argument is limited, as well is the opportunity for amendments. So this cannot be dragged on for days of debate.

Also the amendments rule indicates that the only way an amendment would be made to this bill that would include more states is if the person bringing the bill to the floor to propose suspension of the rules (“the manager”—not sure if this would be McDermott or some head of committee or someone else) proposes the amendment, OR if the committee has already built an amendment into the version coming out of committee.

We know that the bill is likely to easily pass the House, but just what does it do? The short of it: provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for workers who have been out of a job for extended periods of time, and whose benefits about to expire. But which workers will qualify? Nancym to the rescue, this time with a comment on the legislation itself:

This refers to the [Insured Unemployment Rate] written into the original [Emergency Unemployment Compensation] bill. So any state over 8.5% [Total Unemployment Rate] OR any state over 6% IUR would qualify for an extra 13 weeks. That is why press reports and Rep. McDermott’s own press release list Pennsylvania as included in the list of states this will help immediately.

So, states with very high rates of unemployment will benefit from this bill. She narrows the scope even further:

What they MEANT to say is that 300,000 people will run out of benefits by the end of September. All those people AND anyone exhausting benefits, either now, earlier, or anytime later until the provisions of the bill expire will receive 13 extra weeks if their state qualifies in an extended benefit period.

This bill is basically an extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation provided in the stimulus bill adopted at the beginning of the year. According to nancym, this extension also pays for itself:

The actual bill is a bit open-ended; I don’t see a cutoff date, though that may be indicated in the original bill for which this is essentially an amendment. The cutoff mentioned in the bill is just that we each get only one shot at the 13 weeks (in this bill at least).

The bill gives that to anyone in a state that gets into that EB period, even though the funds are EUC. But of much interest to legislators is the fact that the bill pays for itself with an ongoing tax on employers that’s existed for 30 years but was about to expire. So the bill is “deficit-neutral.”

Thanks to nancym, we now know the following:

  1. The legislation will provide extended unemployment benefits in 26 states (those with TUR of 8.5% or greater, and Pennsylvania, with an IUR greater than 6%.

  2. Individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits will be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits.

  3. The House will quickly approve the bill today.

She also writes that the next step (after the Senate approves H.R. 3548) for those out of working and requiring an extension would be H.R. 3404, which would extend many of the benefits through 2010:

Right now they are trying to plug a small hole in a giant dyke that might be about to burst. Hopefully they will change this bill by the time it gets to final passage. But even if it doesn’t change, there is pending legislation in HR 3404 and in the Senate that will be needed to extend these entire programs into 2010, for which they need more time to debate because of the billions needed to pass them.

It’s being put through via an emergency process to cover the projected 1.5 million who will be exhausting benefits in the states that have the most dismal rates. I agree it’s not fair at all, and hopefully they will change it. But if they had added more, it can trigger concerns about more spending which could hold up the legislation.

Some states will actually qualify later this year or early January if things keep getting worse, so even though these states are not included now, they are eventually covered by this law if the rate goes to 8.5 (or 6 insured rate).

Now, a lot of this information is available elsewhere on the Internet, but I can’t help but think that nancym and the other incredible users like her are using OpenCongress to spread the word about these types of bills for a reason. We strive to bring all of this information into one place, and give people the tools to organize around and issue and engage with their elected representatives easily. It seems to be working in this particular situation.

If you’re interested in participating in OpenCongress, please sign up or shoot me an e-mail:

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  • abaratar 09/22/2009 12:32pm

    Nice blog Avelino, you nailed this one.

  • abbondanza23 09/22/2009 12:33pm

    Nice job!

  • nancym 09/22/2009 12:42pm

    Gee, thanks, Avelino! Now, can you get me a job at OC so I don’t have to keep doing this stuff for free? Hee-hee!

  • Comm_reply
    Avelino_Maestas 09/22/2009 1:52pm

    I wish I could put a bunch of you good people on the payroll!

  • dispaced2007 09/22/2009 12:46pm

    An outstanding job of explaining the most pondered questions in regards to the process and the bill in plain English :)

  • Comm_reply
    iliveinct 09/23/2009 12:05pm

    thank you for all you do.

  • embagel 09/22/2009 1:48pm

    Excellent post that helps explain how this new extension fits into the current unemployment benefits programs currently available.

  • Anonymous 09/22/2009 6:40pm

    Except for the explanation above, ALL the articles that I have read about this new unemployment extension (HR 3548) stated that this is for the unemployed who are about to lose their benefits at the end of the month(9/09) or by the end of the year(2009). I exhausted my unemployment benefits last month on Aug 30, 2009. Do I qualify to receive the new extension? PLEASE CLARIFY for me. Thank you.

  • Comm_reply
    abaratar 09/22/2009 9:15pm

    the explanation above is accurate

  • Comm_reply
    3aaa5 09/23/2009 1:05pm

    I’m right there with you! My ended on 8/29 as well! I will let you know if i hear anything too! we should be covered just like the last one.

  • Anonymous 09/22/2009 8:47pm

    Hum being the highest unemployment rates by state are blue states I find this discriminating at best.

  • oderintdummetuant 09/23/2009 4:35am

    Great blog Avelino!!

  • Anonymous 09/23/2009 8:58am

    To Nancy or Avelino, do you guys know when senate will be voting for this bill? I guess we have to wait until they approve it and then goes to the president so that it becomes law correct? I live in Jersey, the unemployment rate here is 9.7%, I exhausted my eb extension, will I qualify for this extension, please advise. Once more, thank you for your support. Karla

  • nancym 09/23/2009 4:21pm

    Yes, it goes to the Senate next, we don’t know exactly how long, but it should be “soon.” You will qualify if you have already exhausted your EB benefits (or EUC for those in states that never passed the new state “TUR” laws).

    Some news articles, e.g., Yahoo, were confusing to people because they were emphasizing NELP’s estimated numbers that would run out of benefits by the end of September. This bill is for all who have, are, or will exhaust benefits in states over 8.5% TUR (3-mo. average rate) or 6% IUR (number receiving benefits). If your state rises to that level after passage these same benefits will kick in when that happens.

    Please direct any further questions about the bill to the regular OC comments section for HR 3548 and many there can also answer these questions.

  • Anonymous 09/25/2009 3:57am

    i got my last check in Aug,do i qualify for the 13 more weeks?….I stay in michigan!

  • need2knowinOHIO 09/25/2009 2:19pm

    glad to see you being recognized for your helpfulness and knowledge, Nancy!!
    awesome job!

  • Anonymous 09/27/2009 12:58pm

    We need this bill passed now. The health bill can wait for a few more days. We needed some money three weeks ago. Our reps. answering and e-mails are full. Why can"t they see how inportant this is? Our state Mich. is about to close up,how can it get this bad.SHAME SHAME. The senate is on holiday Mon. so my call in day for unemployment will come and go again. Thanks Everyone for all the support.

  • Anonymous 10/07/2009 9:13am

    Which stupid idiot pulled 8.5% out of their butt. Texans always get the shaft. I am unemployed and would qualify for the extension. I just missed it by .5%.
    Texas should withdraw if congress keeps it up!

  • Anonymous 10/10/2009 1:15pm

    I have exhausted my EB benefits in August. Do I qualify for an extension? I also live in Michigan. Thanks in advance

  • Anonymous 10/19/2009 12:09pm

    It is too sad how the rethuglicans are going out of their way to bring down our commander in chief and they’re doing this at any cost which happens to be the unemployed. My take is the longer they delay passage of this bill, the numbers will make the stimulus package look like a bad idea. The more folks cut from ui funds, stats will show increased credit card debt, foreclosures, food stamp usage and last but not least noone will be buying which helps move the economy forward. GET THE PICTURE? This is the most disgusting way of making the books look worse than what they are by stopping funds to the unemployment. That’s the domino effect that might win them back the seats they lost. Hopefully, Mr. President will do a George Bush move and say, I’M THE DECIDER. Move it forward without them. They signed every last bill Bush created to destroy our future generations nest egg from ever hatching. Someone from the dems side needs to use their majority numbers and push this thru.

  • Anonymous 10/24/2009 6:37pm

    Can anyone provide some feedback on the 4th extension..I have about 2 and half checks left before I’m out. I hear that they are still awaiting approval from the Senate??

  • Scorp 10/24/2009 11:39pm

    Hi all,

    I’m in Oregon and have been unemployed for a long while (July ’07. Yes, July ’07; there are no jobs in my field in my state). My question is: Since I have exhausted my EB, HEB and now am on OEB (Oregon Emergency Benefits) which expire in the week ending Jan 2, 2010, will I qualify for the benefits now going through Congress? I understand I do on a state level but do I considering my other situations?


  • Anonymous 10/28/2009 7:36am

    if you run out of unemployment benifits in ohio on jan.10 will i qualify for the new benefits.

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