Many do not know that if an emergency unemployment benefits extension isn’t passed within the week, by the end of this very week, the week ending November 20, 2010, the benefits of two million people will be impacted by year’s end. Those that are on unemployment extension benefits at present and who have been unable to find jobs know it, because the deadline to apply for the next extension ends this week, according to OpenConress.org. By the end of November, people receiving unemployment benefits via the Tier extensions will start to lose those benefits as they become exhausted and fall off the unemployment rolls. For many, those benefits are the difference between paying the bills and becoming homeless.
Back at the beginning of June, Congress faced a similar situation. Republicans suddenly became fiscal conservatives again (after ignoring the concept for six years under the Bush administration) and demanded that any extensions be paid for while Democrats insisted that Republicans were simply mean-spirited and unwilling to compromise as they appended unnecessary addenda to legislation that included the emergency unemployment extensions. Democrats refused to pay for the extensions and/or trim the offending earmarks. Republicans refused to budge whatsoever and filibustered.
The stalemate would continue until the end of July, when a standalone measure finally passed through both chambers of Congress. Of course, for many already dangling by a thread economically when the extensions expired at the beginning of June, the eight weeks wherein no extension benefits were sent out meant the loss of their homes or cars or other services. Still, the passage of the emergency extension (which were made retroactive to June 2) helped millions continue to pay their necessary bills.
And now, the emergency legislation that was passed at the end of July is nearing its expiration date. The deadline of applying for the next level of unemployment extensions (there are currently four Tiers of extensions that, depending upon the state within which one resides, can extend benefits for as long as 73 weeks past the regular unemployment duration of 26 weeks) expires this week.
A bill was introduced this week into the House of Representatives that would continue the emergency unemployment benefits extensions for three more months. In fact, the bill was introduced Wednesday, midway through the last week of unemployment extension application eligibility. To add insult to the injury of being jobless for more than the regular 26 weeks, nobody seems to be in a hurry to hold a vote on the measure.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), who sponsored the bill, said, “Terminating this emergency unemployment assistance will not only devastate families, but it also will hurt the entire economy by depressing consumer confidence and demand.”
Nancy Pelosi’s office said Monday that the Speaker hopes to vote on the legislation by the end of the session. That would be the first of the year — Republicans take over the House of Representatives on January 3.
There are currently no plans to hold a vote on extending unemployment benefits in the U. S. Senate.
Simply put: Individuals currently on a Tier extension to their unemployment benefits will stop receiving benefits in the coming weeks as their current Tier expires. It also means that hundreds of thousands — up to at least 2 million — jobless individuals will not have income at all for the holidays, not to mention being part of the coldest stretch in the year’s weather patterns, as their Tier benefits are exhausted.
It is as if there is no fight left in Congress to figure out a way to help the nearly 5 million individuals currently receiving the federal aid embodied in the form of extension benefits. Of course, with the midterm elections now over and many of the Congressmen outgoing, none of the elected officials need worry about recriminations, either. Democratic demoralization should be no excuse to neglect pressing Congressional matters. Millions depend on the emergency benefits to help make ends meet.
Sadly, the longer the House and Senate wait to put the legislation to a vote, the more people that go without extension benefits, which in turn causes a negative ripple effect on the economy.
But what is worse is that, if nothing is done, the number of people falling off the unemployment rolls climbs to 4 million by February. Those individuals will become jobless and penniless. This population can be added to the already estimated two million or more that comprise what is known as the 99ers — those individuals who have exhausted all their Tiers of unemployment benefits and remain unemployed.
Six million 99ers by February — and many believe that that number is ridiculously underestimated. This number will increase steadily as the number of unemployed receiving benefits remains relatively unchanged and, without emergency benefits extensions (the Tiers) at the end of the regular 26 weeks, they, too, become 99ers. With current estimates of the unemployment rate remaining static months into the future, there doesn’t appear to be any real economic relief in sight. Not even from many of the newly unemployed members of Congress.