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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.

“For people that have not exhausted their 99 weeks, the latest extension of unemployment bennies will come due at the end of November. That to me is first and foremost,” said the Nevada Democrat in an interview with HuffPost. “Then I would like to see another tier created, which is what my bill does.”

Berkley’s bill would give the unemployed an additional 20 weeks of benefits in states where the unemployment rate is above 10 percent. Nevada’s unemployment rate is 14.4 percent — highest in the nation.

So, no action on a fifth tier until the current level of federal benefits is extended. The current benefits are set to expire on November 30, and if the history so far of the 111th Congress tells us anything, it could easily take them well beyond the expiration date to get an extension bill passed. If Congress doesn’t get out in front on this, we could easily be looking at debate of an extension of the current benefits lasting through most of the lame-duck session and pushing 99er legislation up against the adjournment date.

Berkley seems to understand the issue. “There’s some sort of misconception here that if somehow you don’t extend unemployment benefits, that poor people are going to disappear. They don’t. They end up on welfare, they end up on food stamps, they end up homeless and they end up desperate, so the idea that they’ll just go away is ludicrous,” she told Delaney. Of course, this is especially true for the long-term unemployed who have exhausted all their benefits without managing to find a job. The longer you’re unemployed, the fewer resources you have to work with and the harder it become to find a job. In past economic crisises, the recovery reabsorbed this part of the work force. But that’s not happening this time and a lot of economist don’t see it happening any time soon.

Why wait to take on this? The House is way ahead legislatively, so if Berkley and the Dems are serious about addressing a tier V, they should do it now.

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