It has come to the point where a little honesty and a lot less confusing media coverage would come in handy for the 99ers and the push for a Tier 5 emergency unemployment benefits level in the current situation facing America’s jobless. Too many times 99ers and Tier 5 terms and numbers are thrown together into a story about the unemployed without bothering to explain just who they are and what is represented, causing confusion and sometimes misrepresentation.
But for those who are 99ers and for those pressing Congress for a creation of a fifith Tier, there is no confusion. They are jobless and benefits-less. They are looking to their government for help in an economy turned malignant and blind to their plight, if a recent report on CBS’ “60 Minutes” is a true indication of where matters stand. And headlines including them along with the regular unemployed and those currently eligible for benefits extensions and emergency benefits completely ignore the fact that 99ers were not included at all in the latest legislation.
So what was the effect of the blocked bill on current 99ers? There wasn’t any. But the effect on current jobless numbers is markedly different, because once the unemployment extensions end on Dec. 1, the number of 99ers will begin to grow as the unemployed who might have been eligible for continued benefits will find themselves cut off from benefits due to lack of congressional funding.
Those who call themselves 99ers have been out of work for at least 27 weeks — some for far longer — and have exhausted their state and federal unemployment compensation and emergency benefits eligibility, which can cover an unemployed individual for up to 99 weeks in some states (while other states allow even less, the numbers dependent upon Department of Labor percentages of unemployment for each respective state). Many have become politically active while being jobless, working with delegates and politicians on various levels to create a fifth Tier (Tier 5) to the levels of unemployment benefits extensions currently provided for by the state and federal governments. There have been several legislative efforts over the past year to include a Tier 5, but all met with failure.
When the House of Representatives voted Thursday on H.R.6419, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Continuation Act, there was no provision for a Tier 5 and no mention of the 99ers.
Some headlines and published pieces noted that the current piece of legislation left 99ers and the rest of the unemployed without an extension to their benefits. What most of those headlines and their trailing articles failed to mention was that a Tier 5 categorization for 99ers wasn’t up for a vote.
Current estimates of the numbers of 99ers suggests that there are at least 2 million people out of work, looking for work, unable to find work, and ineligible for unemployment benefits who once received said benefits. A Department of Labor study in June estimated that the number could be as high as 4.3 million.
That number is expected to increase by 2 million by the end of December if emergency legislation is not passed soon. By the end of February, the limit proposed by H.R.6419, the number is estimated to increase by another 2 million. If the numbers from June’s study remained relatively intact, then the total number of 99ers by February 2011 would be in excess of 8 million people.
Congress has never denied the American worker emergency unemployment benefits when the unemployment rate exceeded 7 percent nationally. At present, the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. In real numbers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the number of unemployed individuals in the U. S. for the month of October at 14.8 million. According to any number of economic analysts, those numbers are not expected to change to any great degree anytime soon.
But while Republicans are playing hypocritical deficit-balancing games and Democrats play at making the Republicans look miserly, hundreds of thousands of the jobless will begin to lose economic traction within the coming weeks due to congressional dallying, politics, and ideological stonewalling. Some will continue to receive unemployment benefits until they become ineligible, then they, too, will become 99ers. Many will remain jobless and become part of the increasing numbers of 99ers as well.
But it should be made clear that the current piece of legislation did absolutely nothing for the current 99ers and their plight.
Nothing at all — except, through its failure to receive passage, possibly increase the number of future 99ers…
“99 Weeks: When Unemployment Benefits Run Out,” 60 Minutes, CBSNews.com
“Employment Situation Summary,” BLS.gov