President Barack Obama signed, according to CBS News, the unemployment extensions and Bush tax cuts compromise bill (H.R.4853) into law today, extending both the reauthorization period for unemployment benefits within the Tier system and the Bush era tax cuts. And although the compromise bill contained many provisions that will help the average American citizen, especially during income tax season, the bill did not address the 5 million people estimated to have already exhausted all their long-term unemployment benefits, including the four Tiers of extensions (where eligible). The number of these long-term jobless individuals, called 99ers, has grown enormously in the past year. Their number is expected to at least double within the coming year. But how can that be when the President just signed a $57 billion benefits extension with the compromise bill?
Simply put: The compromise bill’s unemployment benefits extension measure allows for 13 months of unemployment benefits extensions funding. If an individual is eligible, meaning they have met their respective state’s eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits, they will receive payouts through the various Tiers (I-IV). In some states, that means that they will receive benefits up to 99 weeks (dependent on the individual’s state unemployment rate). But the funding is only for those recipients eligible for the Tier extensions and emergency extensions. The compromise provision does not alter regular unemployment, which lasts 26 weeks. Regular unemployment benefits would be doled out regardless of a Congressional reauthorization. The unemployment benefits extension also does nothing for 99ers, despite what some Congressional legislators have stated and/or might actually believe. The compromise bill provided nothing for the long-term jobless (any individual out of work for 27 weeks or longer) who have exhausted not only their regular benefits but also their four Tiers of extensions.
But the Great Recession that the United States — and the rest of the world — is slowly trying to drag itself out of didn’t start yesterday, so the number of individuals that are reaching the limit of their eligibility (again, dependent upon each individual’s state unemployment rate) grows week to week. Truthfully, there are no guarantees that benefits recipients will graduate to a higher Tier. Still, when ineligible — and still without gainful employment — those that once were recipients join the ranks of the 99ers.
And, again, that number grows on a weekly basis as eligibility ends.
In April, due to a spike in the number of people who lost their jobs in November 2008, the 99er population will surge.
The compromise bill just passed through Congress pulled over 6 million people away from the precipice that drops off into 99er territory. But those 99 weeks end, and depending upon where each of the individuals currently receiving unemployment extension benefits are along the road of their long-term jobless journey, they could end at any time — and will. In the meantime, the job market remains relatively flat, with less than 40,000 new jobs created in November. And although the Department of Labor noted that the number of new jobless claims are down for a four-week period, the lowest since August 2008, there are few to no jobs to take on those that are currently seeking employment while receiving benefits. The Federal Reserve’s projections of an economy that maintains over a 9 percent unemployment rate through next year also does not bode well for most of the unemployed, regular, extended, or 99er.
It is estimated that as many as 9 million people could be jobless and without unemployment benefits by the end of next year, at least doubling the current estimates.
And thus far, except for a call for a Tier 5 unemployment benefits extension by a few legislators, foremost among them members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), not much has been done to address the current plight and the growing number of 99ers.
Needless to write, something must be done. Jobs creation must be implemented somehow, somewhen, and if not by the private sector, which apparently is stockpiling its record profits, then by the government through public works programs or the like. The continuing joblessness of millions is adding to the economic malaise that is gripping the nation, further keeping the economic upturn from gaining traction. If something proactive isn’t done soon, it could take several years (as opposed to one or two) to crawl back to economic stability and a low jobless rate.
Allowing millions of people to become part of the terribly underfunded welfare system isn’t the answer, either, especially when social welfare and assistance programs are the first to be cut when budget-trimming considerations are being considered. Some might be shocked at the suggestion, but where else are the continuing jobless to turn when job applicants outnumber the available jobs at a ratio of 5 to 1?
The current legislation helped millions ward off becoming 99ers. But for millions, it will not stave off 99er status for long. And when there are 9 or 10 million 99ers instead of 4 or 5 million, will Congress then feel a pressing need to provide a Tier 5 extension of unemployment benefits for them? Or will billions of dollars be allocated into food stamps and social welfare programs?
Because leaving the long-term unemployment and job market situation as is will not work.
Brian Montopoli, “Obama Signs Bill To Extend Bush Tax Cuts,” CBSNews.com