Posts Tagged: unemployment benefits

The Missouri budget compromise

Missouri joined Michigan in cutting benefits for unemployment recipients from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, reports Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Beacon. According to the Obama administration, the law will hit unemployed Missouri residents twice:

The federal Department of Labor said in a statement late today that the state’s benefit cut means that the affected unemployed workers will qualify for fewer weeks of additional federal help. The federal unemployment benefits are based on the worker’s former wages and the extent of their state benefit, which is doled out first, the department said.

Missouri has received a lot less attention than Michigan did — maybe Michigan made it politically possible for other states to cut benefits.

Unemployment crisis = unemployment insurance crisis

The federal government has a projected $10.4 trillion deficit over the next ten years. But most states also run long-term deficits, a problem partly caused by money states borrowed from Washington to pay unemployment benefits. Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget belatedly addresses state and federal government’s failure to handle a prolonged period of high unemployment.

Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains how Wisconsin came to borrow $1.56 billion from the federal government. (more…)

Long-term unemployed come out of the shadows

Ed Brayton of the Michigan Messenger has an interesting pick-up: starting in a month, the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics will begin to count people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks as being, well, unemployed. (more…)

The retroactive claim game

Sean F. Driscoll of the Rockford, Illinois Register-Star has had a series of good pieces on the nuts-and-bolts of doling out unemployment benefits in Illinois. He has another one today on Illinois residents who saw their benefits end Nov. 30, only to have Congress belatedly extend them last week. (more…)

The nutty unemployment benefit extension debate

The New York TimesMokoto Rich reports that the national unemployment rose in November from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent. Meanwhile, Congress has decided not to further extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press reports on how the expiration impacts Michigan — which had an October unemployment rate of 12.8 percent — and the irrational reason Congress may yet extend benefits:

Congress let the most recent extension expire at midnight Tuesday. Absent another extension, more than 45,000 Michiganders will lose their benefits by Jan. 1. That number would grow to more than 181,000 by the end of April. According to President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, more than 7 million people nationwide will exhaust their benefits by November without an extension.

The key is expected to be ongoing negotiations about tax policy — Republicans want to see 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 a year kept in place, while Democrats would keep tax cuts only for those who make less. An unemployment benefit exemption is expected to be part of those talks.

This has been dutifully reported the last few days — a compromise will be reached where Republicans keep their tax cuts for the rich and Democrats get their unemployment benefit extension. But the policy merit behind this political compromise makes no sense. (more…)

Will fiscal hawks devour unemployment benefits?

The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that 124,000 people in Illinois, 2 million nationally, would be impacted by Congress not passing an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. The benefits expire Nov. 30. Yet as Sean F. Driscoll of the Rockford Register Star reports, there is a very good chance that the lame duck Congress will not get around to this.

Driscoll contextualizes how remarkable it would be if benefits were not extended. (more…)

Congress promises to do its chores in lame duck session

Adam Doster of Progress Illinois relays a report from the National Employment Law Project that 2.5 million workers nationally, and 126,000 in Illinois, will see their Dept. of Labor-administered unemployment benefits expire Nov. 30. Congress has still not acted to extend these benefits despite a persistently high national unemployment rate.  Now the issue must be resolved in the “lame duck” session between next week’s election and the swearing-in of new legislators. As the report notes, it would seem in bad form for Congress to halt benefit extensions during the holiday season.

Lawmakers, though, are hardly singling out the unemployed: Congress has so far failed to pass any 2011 discretionary spending bills for federal agencies — and lawmakers will likely hurriedly roll a bunch of these agency budgets into “omnibus” packages. (more…)

$500 million just for the interest payments to cover California’s unemployed

Just days after signing the latest budget in state history, its becoming increasingly clear that California’s $19 billion budget hole wasn’t filled, but merely papered over.

First, the budget depends on over $5 billion in federal aid that has yet to be committed. Another $1.2 billion will emerge from a dubious real estate deal that sells off more than a dozen state-owned office buildings to private investors at the bottom of the commercial real estate cycle and rent the space back. The state’s Legislative Analysts Office says this scheme won’t generate a dime over the long haul and will end up costing taxpayers $1.5 billion more than would holding on to the buildings. (more…)

Day 1 of Baseball Legend Jim Bunning’s Unemployment Insurance Plan

At midnight, the unemployment benefits for 1.1 million Americans expired, including 15,000 in Illinois. Mother JonesJames Ridgeway explains that the benefits have expired because once again the U.S. Senate is behaving more like an eccentric private club than representative body. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid motioned for unanimous consent to extend unemployment and COBRA health insurance benefits 30 days. Everyone proceeded to consent — except Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning. Bunning says he wants the unemployment extension paid for with spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere. Bunning must have turned over a new leaf because he approved of the $636 billion defense spending bill that passed the Senate in December.

Bunning’s obstruction sucks for people collecting unemployment — and also stinks for state officials who administer unemployment benefits. In many states, unemployment insurance funds have already run dry, or are about to. As Ridgeway notes, only federally-funded benefits has prevented many of the long-term unemployed from destitution. At best, the Senate will actually pass the extensions in the next couple of days. But that still means states will have had to go through the process of taking off and then putting people back on benefits.

Keep The Net

The New York Times’ Peter Goodman had a really fantastic — and depressing — piece this weekend on the bleak future of the American labor market. How much it has to do with government, I suppose, is determined by how much of a role you think government should play in the economy. But one takeaway is despite the massive, structural problems facing the U.S. labor market, bureaucratic standbys like food stamps and unemployment insurance really do help people stay afloat. These are programs the federal government can run, even if bigger ideas about how to respond to a post financial crisis-economy are something the Obama administration and Congress currently appear incapable of.