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Unemployment Extension Bill is Now Law, But the Fight for the Unemployed is Far From Over

July 22, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As you all probably know by now, President Obama has officially signed the unemployment extension bill into law, sending it the state unemployment offices for them to begin implementing. The bill extends unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been jobless for more than 6 months until November 30th. It will also pay benefits back retroactively for the more than 2.5 million people who have had their payments cut off since Congress let extended unemployment benefits expire on June 2nd.

To track the bill as it moves to the individual states, visit the OpenCongress Benefits Wiki, where you can find state-specific information on how it’s being implemented. Since it’s a wiki, it only works if everyone adds what intel they have on what’s happening with the bill in their state. So, please, if you’ve seen any local reports or received any information from your state labor agency on when to expect checks, add it to the wiki so that other folks who may be searching for the information can benefit from it.

We’ll be continuing to cover the unemployment insurance issue as it goes forward, but, for now, as this current wave of congressional action winds down, I want to urge all of you who have been following the unemployment extension bill to continue paying attention to what’s happening in Congress. As Annie Lowrey at the Washington Independent reported recently, the unemployment insurance extension bill that was signed into law today is most likely going to be the last one. That means that, come December, we are going to be right back in this same situation, with hundreds of thousands of unemployed people per week losing their unemployment insurance payments without any real chances for finding jobs.

As the chart at right shows (click it for a larger version), the median duration of unemployment today is more than twice as high as it has been since at least 1965. Long-term joblessness is just an incredibly huge problem in the U.S. right now, and when Congress cuts off extended unemployment benefits for good in December, we’re going to be facing a 9%+ unemployment rate and no support for the unemployed beyond 26 weeks.

That’s going to propel a giant shift in the political landscape. We’ve seen recently that when unemployment benefits expire, a huge amount of political interest and energy is generated. For example, over the past 30 days, unemployment insurance legislation garnered more than 10 times as many page views on OpenCongress than the major Dodd-Frank financial reform bill (H.R.4173) that was moving through Congress at the same time. So, the energy will be there. But the challenge is going to be finding the right place to focus it.

The point I want to stress here is that even though this unemployment insurance bill has now been signed into law, the fight for the people who have lost their jobs during this recession is really just getting started. If you check out of the discussion on jobs and unemployment now, you’ll be in a worse situation for re-engaging and making a difference come November or December. The earlier you’re involved in the issues and organized around solutions, the more success you’ll have in the legislative battles when they occur. I’ll be covering the jobs and stimulus situation on OpenCongress over the next few months. I hope you’ll keep following along, either here (RSS) or on the OpenCongress Facebook page.

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