With the recent expiration of federal unemployment benefits on Tuesday, November 30’TH, many media outlets have stepped up their efforts to relay the immense damage that will be cause to people, spouses, families, and businesses as a result. This help is much appreciated, but accuracy should prevail, and the media is simply not accurately presenting who the real 99ers are. A 99er, as defined over a year ago when the term was coined, is a person that has EXHAUSTED all of their unemployment benefits, both at the state and federal levels. The term 99er refers to the generalized period of time of 99 weeks maximum that are currently in place derived from the total of 26 weeks of state unemployment, 53 weeks allowed for Tiers 1-4, and the remaining 20 weeks available under federal Extended Benefits (EB). Simple math shows 26+53+20=99, hence the name 99er.
As much as the over 6 million 99ers appreciate the increase in exposure due to the recent lapse in federal funding of unemployment benefits, it is EXTREEMLY disheartening when the pundits can’t get the definition of a “real 99er” correct. Many broadcasters and writers have started to refer to people that have recently lost, or will soon lose, their unemployment benefits due to the U.S. Congress failing to re-authorize extended unemployment compensation benefits last Tuesday as 99ers. This is not what a “real 99er” is and to present this otherwise is a huge travesty on those that have suffered for months as 99ers without the positive attention in the media that they deserve.
In the world of “those who think they know really upset those of us that do”, what’s in a name? Everything! 99ers have already paid a huge price for the right to call themselves 99ers. As much as no one wishes the harm that will befall the millions of unemployed that are losing their benefits due to the recent inaction by Congress, they have simply not earned their stripes yet. Being called a 99er, and working for months to get much need recognition for their plight, should not be taken lightly. There is a significant difference between an actual victim and a potential victim, for the 99ers have in many ways already been victimized by their uncaring and indifferent representatives in Congress.
99ers have been called lazy when they have sent out hundreds of resumes with no return response what so ever. They have been accused of being drug addicts that should have to go through drug testing to get any further benefits while they can’t possibly have the resources to support a drug habit when they can’t even keep food on the table and a roof over their head. In a market with a best case scenario being competing with 5 other people for every job, they press on against all odds. Despite all the taunts and lack of support, they still try to believe that they are not forgotten by their brothers and sisters that have been fortunate enough to retain their positions and keep a paycheck coming in. They try to stay informed, to press peacefully for a resolution, only to be belittled by some of the most mean spirited people this world has to offer. Yes, they have earned their stripes and should not have to share the name 99er with anyone that hasn’t walked a mile in their shoes.
My request to all in the media is simple. Do your homework. Make sure that when you use the term 99er that you know what it means. That you understand all of the pain and suffering that goes along with it. Do not slap these people in the face yet again by belittling their dilemma by giving this hard earned moniker to those that have not earned it. Again, 99ers to a person do not wish anyone to join them in this disaster zone of unemployment. Not because being a 99er is like joining some fraternity or sorority, but because it means joining the poorest of the poor, and they would not wish this on anyone, not even their greatest enemy.