Friday, December 23, 2011

The End of 99 Weeks for UI Benefits

UPDATE: January 4, 2012 - As far as I can tell, the UI cuts are coming from EB (State extended benefits), which come after federal extended benefits expire (EUC). In Nevada I think it's going down from 20 weeks of State benefits to 13 weeks. SEE THE GRAY BOX AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE FOR MORE DETAILS.

Someone I know in Nevada was on EUC and was just approved for only 13 weeks of EB, even though Nevada has a 13% unemployment rate. We were trying to find out why she didn't get all 20 weeks even though she got the max in regular State benefits (26 weeks) and four tiers of EUC (53 weeks) - - - 20 more weeks of EB would have given her all 99 weeks, but for some odd reason she'll only get 92.

Regular State    3,611,966
EUC                 2,926,135
EB                      571,848

SOURCE (scroll down) The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims they get no information from State unemployment offices when determining the unemployment rate, yet they have these numbers.

POLITICO: "Congress passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax break on Friday, sending the compromise bill to President Barack Obama, who will sign it into law. The bill cleared on a quick voice vote in both chambers of Congress with no objections. The deal only came after House Republicans relented Thursday afternoon and agreed to pass the two-month extension as long as Senate Democrats appointed conference committee negotiators. The legislation also includes an extension of unemployment benefits [the funding of the federal program for those who might normally qualify] a fix to Medicare reimbursement, and a tweak to the payroll tax system to help small businesses."

But the bill also marks the beginning of the end for a maximum limit of 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. Although the deal reauthorizes federal unemployment programs, it does not make a change needed to prevent the loss of 20 weeks of benefits in most states over the course of 2012. The reduction in benefits represents Democrats' quiet embrace of part of the GOP's proposed reforms to the unemployment insurance system.

"We couldn't get it done otherwise," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the matter during a press conference.

On top of that, the House plan is loaded with riders that have nothing to do with unemployment, payroll taxes, or jobs.

Shortly after the House vote, the White House announced that Obama would give a statement at 12:15 p.m. and then, less than an hour later, leave for Hawaii, where his family awaits to celebrate the holidays. I heard his statement: It was brief and he didn't take questions...and he never mentioned cutting 20 weeks of UI benefits for the unemployed. Merry Christmas Mister President.

Seemingly everyone but Arthur Delaney at the Huffington Post had overlooked the fact that this short-term stopgap allows extended unemployment benefits to expire in several states:

A top ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives on Tuesday defended his party’s support for cutting 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, a position that has escaped much notice in the payroll tax cut debate consuming Washington.

Democrats want the House to pass a Senate bill that would postpone the January expiration of federal unemployment programs for two months. But even if it is reauthorized, one of those programs will automatically phase out next year, unless Congress changes federal law to allow states to keep it, a provision not included in the Senate bill [...]

The Extended Benefits program is the last stop on the unemployment insurance train for the very long-term jobless. It provides up to 20 weeks of assistance to workers who exhaust 53 weeks of federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation and 26 weeks of state benefits. But the Extended Benefits program is only available in states where the unemployment rate has risen significantly over the past three years. Unemployment has remained stubbornly high since 2008, but it hasn’t risen, which will make most states ineligible for Extended Benefits early in 2012.

It stuns me that the mainstream media or all the congressional politicians never mentioned this in any if their talking points.

It was re-affirmed again by Arthur Delaney when he writes how the Democrats defended the 20-week cut: A top-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives on Tuesday defended his party's support for cutting 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, a position that has escaped much notice in the payroll tax cut debate that has consumed Washington for the past few weeks.

"There are things in this bill as we pointed out that we had to make concessions on," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday in response to a question from the Daily Delaney Downer. "That's the process. We understand that. Unfortunately there are an awful lot of tea party activists who were elected to the Congress who don't understand compromise. That provision is one of the provisions that Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) had concerns about."

As the only member of Congress who seemed previously to be irked by this, House Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin has been appointed as a conferee in the House-Senate conference on the long-term bill. Hopefully he will make this a priority. He recently called the provisions in the Senate bill “wholly inadequate.”

And because the “look-back” on the Extended Benefits provision is three years, unemployment hasn’t increased in most of those states under the time requirements, which means that the 99ers will fall back to the 79ers -- but could gradually be reduced to the 59ers by the end of 2012. Here's how it is now until December 31, 2011.

26 weeks regular state-funded benefits
Tier I - up to 20 weeks Federal benefits
Tier II - up to 14 weeks Federal benefits
Tier III - up to 13 weeks Federal benefits
Tier VI - up to 6 weeks Federal benefits
     =  79 weeks sub-total
up to 20 weeks State Extended Benefits ( SEB )
= 99 weeks total MAX combined benefits

Originally, the Senate bill changed this to a four-year look-back, which would have preserved Extended Benefits in the high-unemployment states. As it is, it’s probably going to phase out, unless it gets changed in the one-year version before the end of February next year.

But 11 states will lose access to Extended Benefits in just the next two months – Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon and Indiana in January, and Wisconsin, Tennessee, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Ohio in February.

Important: Your State Unemployment Office website will have details on who qualifies for extended benefits and when and how benefits will be paid.

Just like the Republicans refer to ObamaCare as "socialized medicine", they think anything the government does collectively for the good of all is Socialism. To them, Medicare and Social Security is also Socialism. They think unemployment benefits is robbing from the very wealthy (or from those who have jobs) to give to the very lazy (those without jobs). And for those who rely on TANF (the very poor), this is the worst form of Socialism.

But yet, at the same time, the GOP also thinks that subsidies for the very wealthy, Michelle Bachmann, big tobacco, or big oil is perfectly OK. They believe that making the corporations in the defense industry fatter than they already are is perfectly reasonable in this post cold war era. They also believe that by not supporting these subsidies is somehow "un-American". Just as the CEO of ConocoPhillips.

And why are the Republicans so adamant about defending and protecting the very banks that caused this recession?

In January 2009 a Republican sponsored bill called for a complete payroll tax holiday, meaning the tax rate would be reduced to ZERO. The current version, meanwhile, would keep the rate at 4.2 percent, rather than allow it to return to the pre-2010 level of 6.2 percent. (Presently it would cut the employer's contributions even more, by half to 3.1 percent). So why had the Republicans been against it now?

The GOP's current "jobs bill" is just more of the same: blaming the poor and unemployed for our economic problems, and included goodies to benefit big oil and corporations. Here is H.R.1745 (the Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Services Act of 2011) that was proposed by Republican Dave Camp (Midland, MI) PDF. If you're a lawyer, you might understand it. Example:

(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 1202(b)(2) of the Social
4 Security Act is amended—
5 (1) in subparagraph (A), by inserting ‘‘and’’ at
6 the end;
7 (2) in subparagraph (B), by striking ‘‘, and’’
8 and inserting a period; and
9 (3) by striking subparagraph (C).
10 (b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by
11 subsection (a) shall take effect as of the date of enactment
12 of this Act.

The GOP's bill includes spending cuts in government programs – not tax increases on "job creators" – to fully pay for extending the current payroll Social Security tax relief and unemployment insurance "reforming" entitlement programs....such as cutting the total number of weeks for unemployment benefits. (See the bill at Speaker.Gov)

The bill permanently "reforms" the federal unemployment insurance program. The bill uses a two-step process to gradually reduce current maximum weeks of benefits, first from 99 to 79 weeks, then to 59 weeks. The GOP says that unemployment services should "focus on helping Americans get back to work". Even the Wall Street Journal, admits in its headline that jobs are scarce.

Currently Nevada (Democratic Senator Harry Reid's state) has the highest jobless rate of 13%.

But Republicans seem to think that the unemployed are just lazy...even unemployed Republican voters. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah says: “I don’t see why you have to go more than 59 weeks...they just stay home and watch television.”

Republican Senator Jim DeMint (South Carolina Tea Party) said we should not extend unemployment benefits because "people are gaming the system and refusing to take jobs because they get unemployment benefits and food stamps."

There are dozens of examples of this attitude coming from the GOP, even though there are currently only 3 million jobs available for 27 million unemployed Americans if you count all the "discouraged workers. And in a country this large, how do you match 3 million people with skills with the jobs being advertised...especially if they're bound to their location by a rental agree, lease, or mortgage? Or they no longer have the funds to re-locate to another city or another state?

But regardless, extended compensation DOES NOT discourage the jobless from seeking out new work. A new report that finds workers who are eligible for benefits search for work more vigorously than workers who are not eligible.

"Since Congress enacted federal unemployment benefits, time spent looking for a job has tripled among the long-term unemployed who are out of work as a result of job loss," the report says. (PDF) (Article)

The amount of time the long-term jobless who are eligible for benefits spend looking for work increased 203% compared with previous years. For unemployed workers who are likely ineligible for benefits (because their unemployment was not caused by job loss) the amount of time they spent searching for work increased only 120%.

The GOP's jobs bill also requires all state and federal UI recipients to be in a GED program if they have not finished high school (with exceptions for older workers), and participate in reemployment services to help them get back to work. (Like working two months for free under the Georgia Plan).

That should be both discriminatory and illegal, as people who have already paid into the unemployment insurance system should still be eligible, as those restrictions weren't in place before they were laid off from their jobs.

The GOP's jobs bill also allows states, if they desire, to perform drug screening and testing as a condition of providing UI benefits. Without probable cause, this should also be discriminatory and illegal as it doesn't apply to others who also receive federal dollars, such as those receiving government contracts, grants, and salaries, such as government workers.

Why don't we drug test members of congress and CEOs? Will everyone receiving Social Security also be subjected to mandatory drug resting? Why would the states want the burden of this added cost?

As part of the GOP’s Plan for America’s Job Creators, the measure also includes several other key provisions. One is that it accelerates a decision from Obama on the Keystone XL energy pipeline, requiring, within 60 days, for the permit to be granted unless the president determines the project is not in the national interest. (The Republicans, always concerned about big oil.)

The GOP claims that the measure "will create thousands of American jobs and increase America's energy security." The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet from the Canadian tar sands across our country to ports and refineries along the Texas Gulf coast...from there it could be exported anywhere in the world.

The oil will most likely will be speculated on by investment banks like Goldman Sachs on the commodities market, driving up the price, and then sold to China. It won't be sold to us for "dirt cheap" and stored in our reserves.

The Keystone XL project would provide, at most, 6,000 temporary construction jobs, very few of which would be local hires, according to an analysis performed by the U.S. State Department.

Cornell University's Global Labor Institute did its own evaluation, concluding that the project would employ between 2,500 and 4,650 construction workers. "Most jobs created will be temporary and non-local," the institute says.

Even TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company that wants to build the pipeline, has said it would create "hundreds" of permanent jobs. That's what TransCanada's vice president for pipelines, Robert Jones, told CNN a few weeks ago.

Other goodies in the GOP's "jobs bill", provisions that they dangle as "jobs" for their reason for this bill:

  • The measure extends 100 percent business expensing through 2012 [continue corporate loopholes]
  • Adds the EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250) which lowers the tax on businesses from 35% to 25% and allows them to bring back their overseas profits without being subjected to taxation (or lower taxation at 5.25%)
  • Ratify trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea [outsourcing more jobs for cheaper labor]
  • Making it easier to obtain visas [for the importation for those with degrees for cheaper labor]
  • Less FDA restrictions for the medical device approval process and fees for prescription drugs [more profits for unsafe products]
  • American Energy Initiative by passing legislation to expand energy exploration and production [more oil profits]
  • Adopting a budget that reduces government spending by almost $6 trillion over the next ten years [by cutting Social Security and Medicare but not defense spending]
  • Repeals $8 billion in ObamaCare {who cares about poor sick people?]
  • "Reforms" the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program by closing the current “strip club loophole” to ensure that welfare funds cannot be accessed in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos by blocking welfare electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards from working in ATMs there. (I live in Las Vegas and cheap meals can be found in some casinos.)
  • Changes the co-pay structure for civilian federal retirees ["structure" must mean "cuts" "reform".]
  • Prohibits millionaires from receiving unemployment insurance and food stamp benefits (This one, I like.)
  • And of course they want the tax breaks for the rich made permanent.


Other quick facts about extended unemployment benefits (as of December 2011):

  • According to a new report by the Obama administration, 17.9 million Americans have received federal EUC and state EB benefits since the inception of the programs in 2008. Currently 3 million are receiving EUC and 600,000 are receiving EB. SOURCE
  • If you include other household members, more than 50 million people have benefited from EUC and EB, including almost 13 million children. About 1.3 million of these people might have lost their benefits by the end of January 2012. By the end of 2012, an additional 5 million people could exhaust their benefits. The White House Report - PDF
  • Robert Redford writes: "Should we extend middle class tax relief and unemployment benefits at a time when our workers are struggling with hard times?"
  • 7.4 million Americans are currently receiving either regular state or federal extended unemployment benefits. SOURCE
  • 27 million unemployed Americans will not benefit at all from any amount of a Social Security tax cut. SOURCE
The article in the Huffington Post: "Due to the timing of increased joblessness, in January, the program will expire in Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon and Indiana. In February, Extended Benefits will drop off in Wisconsin, Tennessee, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Ohio, according to an analysis by worker advocacy group the National Employment Law Project."

In the HuffPo Hill Newsletter yesterday - "NIGHT DOWNER! Extended unemployment benefits for the very long-term jobless are expiring this month in Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon and Indiana, per agreement between congressional Republicans, Democrats and the Obama administration."

Besides Minnesota and Tennessee (which I find no mention of the two month extension), it appears the other states will still have benefits for another 2 months. I went to all their state's UI websites and provided the links below. 

The websites, as expected, were obtuse with their information and difficult to navigate. I had to use their search engines in two instances to find information. I believe all 50 states make filing for benefits as difficult and as confusing as possible to discourage filing for unemployment claims.

People who file UI claims in the states listed below are probably much more familiar with the websites and know their situation better that me.

Minnesota - There are two extended benefits programs in Minnesota. Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) – Congress has moved the phase out to the end of February 2012. Federal-State Extended Benefits (EB) – will "trigger off" at the end of the week of January 8th through 14th. You cannot be paid for weeks after the program "triggers off". If you are receiving benefits from the EB program, you will not be paid for weeks after January 8th through 14th.

Michigan - Congress has passed and the President has signed an extension of the expiration dates for the Extended Benefits (EB) and Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Programs through February 2012.

Massachusetts - The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 extends the expiration dates of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and federal-state Extended Benefits (EB) unemployment insurance (UI) programs. The legislation extends the deadlines by which claimants can apply for EUC and EB benefits through March 6, 2012 but does not add any new weeks of benefits.

Maine - Congress and the White House have come to agreement on a two-month extension for federal unemployment programs. Without this extension, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program would have begun to phase out and the Extended Benefit (EB) program would have ended in early January. This extension means that the these programs will stay in effect for the next two months. The legislation did not add more weeks of benefits; it only extends the amount of time available to file a claim for benefits from these two programs. 

Oregon - On Friday, December 23, 2011, the President signed a bill extending the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) extension program. The bill does not add additional funds, or tiers, to the EUC program; it extends the filing dates in which an individual can apply for EUC, or move on to the next tier. The extension allows individuals to file a new EUC claim, or to establish a new tier of benefits, through the week ending March 3rd, 2012.

Indiana - Congress has approved a two-month extension of the federally-funded extended unemployment insurance benefits. If you are currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits, you may continue to file your weekly voucher as normal.

Wisconsin - Under federal law, Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit extensions were set to expire on March 3, 2012.

Tennessee - Unclear, no info found.

South Carolina - State Extended Benefits prolong benefits up to 13 additional weeks. State Extended Benefits are available if you have exhausted all regular unemployment insurance and all Emergency Unemployment Compensation, First, Second, Third, and Fourth Tier on or after February 15, 2009. 

Rhode Island - In January 2012, the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program will begin to phase out. EUC is built on four tiers of benefits, with claimants completing one tier before advancing to another. Under the phase-out plan claimants will be allowed to continue to collect on their current tier of benefits, but will no longer be able to advance to the next benefit tier.

Ohio - The legislation extends deadlines for the EUC program from December 31, 2011 to March 10, 2012. Eligible individuals may continue to collect benefits until August 15, 2012. This program continues to offer a maximum of 53 weeks of extended unemployment benefits. The new legislation did not add any more weeks of benefits.

1 comment:

  1. The New York Times claims that "the government will also continue paying unemployment insurance benefits under current policy through February. Without Congressional action, many of the long-term unemployed would begin losing benefits next month."