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Unemployment Benefits Info By and For the Unemployed

December 9, 2010 - by Conor Kenny

The unemployed of the “Great Recession” are organizing online at OpenCongress to share resources, support and document what Congress is doing to extend (or not) unemployment benefits.

Here’s the state of things in Congress: President Obama and congressional Republicans struck a deal a few days ago that would prolong the current regime of extended unemployment benefits – which last for different lengths for different states, depending on how bad the recession is there – until January 2012. States with the worst unemployment rate would still have a maximum of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, but the compromise would allow those who have become unemployed in the last 99 weeks to continue receiving unemployment benefits until their time expires. No additional benefits were added; it merely maintained the stimulus-level unemployment benefits until 2012. The extended unemployment benefits were due to expire December 11, 2010. The compromise package also contained a number of tax cuts: a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, a two-year estate tax cut, a two-year temporary cut in the payroll tax rate, equipment-purchase write-offs for businesses and various small-bore tax credits from the stimulus bill. (See this OC blog post for more).

On Thursday, however, Democrats in the House voted to reject the compromise package that contained the unemployment extensions, expressing dissatisfaction for tax cuts for those making over $250,000 and the estate tax cut. With the extended benefits regime due to expire on December 11th, it is unclear what action Congress will take, if any.

Where does that leave the unemployed? Well, the “99’ers” in the hardest-hit states are starting to run out of benefits and those unemployed more recently aren’t going to get the extended benefits in the first place. They are, however, trying to help each other here on OpenCongress. The comment threads of the unemployment bills, like the “Americans Want to Work Act” have become de-facto unemployment chat rooms. They’ve also created the BenefitWiki project on the OC Wiki to compile resources for the unemployed, keep track of legislation and keep up on the different tiers of unemployment eligibility in different states.

Check it out: Project:BenefitWiki

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