[2014 Update] Republicans and Democrats have finally compromised and passed a bipartisan budget. Unfortunately the latest budget deal failed to provide federal funding for unemployment benefits (known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program) meaning 1.3 million unemployed Americans will lose their benefits at the start of 2014. Another 850,000 are expected to lose benefits through the first quarter of 2014.
Democratic leaders in Congress have vowed to take up the extension to unemployment benefits at the start of 2014 when Congress returns to session but are likely to face an uphill battle with Republicans who have long opposed further funding.
New applicants for unemployment benefits or those looking for alternative options should check with their state unemployment agency/commission which manages both the federal and state unemployment benefits.
[2013 Unemployment Benefits Extension - January 2013 update] Congress and the Obama administration have reached an agreement that will extend unemployment benefits into 2013 following the latest round of fiscal cliff negotiations. This means newly unemployed and those with time left on their unemployment benefits will continue to receive aid in 2013.
However the current deal does not expand the UI benefit duration (detailed in previous updates below), meaning those who have already exceeded the maximum allowable benefits (up to 73 weeks in some states) will NOT be able to receive additional benefits.
If you are already receiving benefits no further action should be required on your part. For new applicants or those looking for alternative options check with your state unemployment agency/commission which manages both the federal and state unemployment benefits.
[December 2012 update] Newly unemployed people will no longer have access to extended unemployment benefits in 2013. As Congress and the re-elected Obama administration have not passed any unemployment extension legislation, unemployed Americans will only have access to the existing maximum of 26 weeks of state benefits next year. Federal extended unemployment benefits programs were extended for the remainder of 2012, as described in the previous update below.
The last payable ending date for all federal extensions is December 29, 2012. Unless Congress passes additional legislation to extend benefits , no further federal unemployment benefits (Tiers 1 – 4) can be paid for any weeks spent unemployed after this date even if someone may have a balance remaining on a federal extension claim. More than two million will lose access to federal unemployment insurance if the program lapses in December.
The re-elected Obama administration may put in place additional unemployment insurance in the new year and I will provide updates on any new legislation or proposals.
[Updated March - 2012 Unemployment Benefits Approved by Congress] Congress has passed legislation, signed by the President, that extends unemployment benefits into 2013. This is part of legislation that extended the payroll tax credit and doctor medicare reimbursements through December 2012. However the unemployment benefits extension has been changed to a tiered structure based on the recipients state unemployment rate.
Unemployment insurance benefits were extended to between 40 and 73 weeks for new recipients, down from a uniform 99 weeks under past legislation per the previous updates below. States with unemployment rates higher than 8.3% (currently Idaho, Washington, Arizona, Tennessee, Oregon, Indiana, New Jersey, Kentucky, Michigan, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, Rhode Island, California and Nevada) can extend benefits to 73 weeks while those in states with lower rates can extend benefits between 40 and 63 weeks. States are also allowed to mandate drug testing for unemployment benefits.
[Updated - 2012 Unemployment Benefits Extension] In his latest jobs plan, the $447 billion Americans Jobs Act, the President has called for more than $62 billion in spending to extend unemployment insurance benefits through 2012. He is also looking to fund state administered programs that will alleviate long-term joblessness for millions of Americans.
The President’s jobs plan will also provide benefits (a $4,000 tax credit) for business’ that train people who have been out of work for 6 or more months, by covering costs to the employer for up to 8 weeks. States will also be able to use unemployment-insurance funds to make up for wages lost by workers whose hours were cut back in lieu of a layoff and for those 50 and older who took a lower-paying job after a layoff.
The extended benefits will cover jobless workers for up to 99 weeks, but apart from the new training programs, the proposed jobs recovery plan provides little benefit for those unemployed for more than 99 weeks.
[Updated August 2011] Unfortunately as part of getting bipartisan support for the debt ceiling deal , the President had to cut requests for extensions to various stimulus programs that included extending federal unemployment insurance. Federal unemployment programs, which kick in after the 26 weeks of state benefits are used, would have required an estimated $60 billion of funding. Democrats had only managed to keep the programs alive in Dec 2010 for another 13 months by attaching them to a two-year re-authorization of the bush-era tax cuts (see updates below).
Anyone laid off after July 1 is ineligible for extra weeks of benefits under current law. People who started filing claims in July who exhaust their six months of state benefits in January will be on their own. (People who are in the middle of a “tier” of federal benefits will probably be able to receive the remaining weeks in their tier, but they will definitely be ineligible for the next level up.) Since 2008, layoff victims could receive as many as 73 additional weeks of benefits, depending on what state they lived in. Nearly 4 million people currently claim benefits under the two main federal programs (known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits), according to the latest numbers from the Labor Department. Another 3 million are on state benefits. (Huffington post)
The White house has indicated it will keep pushing for more assistance to the long term unemployed.
[Updated April 2011] Representative Barbra Lee, D-CA, has introduced a new bill (H.R.589, Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011) in the house to further extend unemployment benefits. The proposal would add 14 weeks to the first tier of unemployment insurance benefits and make the additional weeks available retroactively to all unemployed workers who have exhausted all of their existing benefits. This bill is primarily aimed at helping the long term unemployed, or 99ers, whose benefits have or are close to expiring.
This bill is still the House’s Ways and Means committee for review and is likely to face fierce opposition from Republicans. Congress recently returned to session, but this bill and others is likely to take a back seat unless the government’s budgetary issues are sorted out.
Also, a number of states have recently extended or changed their unemployment benefits. This includes:
New York: Gov. Cuomo has now signed legislation that amends state law and allows New York residents to qualify for a third year of the state’s unemployment insurance program.
Michigan: has become the first state to lower the number of weeks jobless workers can get benefits by passing a bill that temporarily continues federal benefits for people who are out of work now, while cutting state benefits for new filers from 26 to 20 weeks starting next year.
[Updated December 2010] President Obama has signed into law a bill that covers an extension of all the bush-era tax cuts plus some new and extended tax benefits. With this legislation he has essentially created a new 2011 Economic Stimulus package, estimated at around $858 billion. As part of this package, unemployment insurance benefits were extended once again, for an additional 13 months. Over 7 million Americans were at risk of losing their unemployment checks if the insurance was not extended. The latest benefits extension is only for those who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state jobless insurance or who are working their way through the federal tiers (see details below). Further, the maximum for unemployment benefits is still 99 weeks.
When the benefits expired earlier this year (Nov. 30) about 1 million people scattered across all 50 states stopped receiving unemployment checks, which provide an additional 34 and up to 53 weeks of benefits based on the state’s unemployment levels under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), which was enacted in 2008. After state and EUC benefits are used up, unemployed workers can receive benefits through the permanent federal-state Extended Benefits (EB) program, between 13 to 20 weeks, if their state’s unemployment insurance laws call for it, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
Under the new tax law, states won’t have to show that their unemployment rates increased during the past two years to keep the EB program. In addition, the new legislation gives 10 states — Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming — an opportunity to provide the EB benefit to jobless workers, if they pass state legislation. Currently, 977,000 workers are receiving extended benefits, according to NELP.
Overall, half of all states qualify for the 99 weeks, because the unemployment rate is at least 8.5 percent with some of the highest unemployment in California, Georgia and Rhode Island, according to Labor Department statistics. Of those 25 states, 12 have jobless rates at least as high as the 9.8 percent national level, while nine are mired in double-digit unemployment.
[Update November 2010] Jobless benefits for thousands of Americans are likely to expire following the recent blocking of a house bill (see Senate bill that was blocked in previous below) to extend jobless benefits for three more months (H.R. 6419). Republicans, in a replay of a dispute earlier this year, blocked the legislation because its $12 billion cost would be added to the government’s deficit. They demanded offsetting savings elsewhere in the budget.
The 258-154 vote fell short of the two-thirds needed under an expedited approval process. Voting against the bill were 11 Democrats and 143 Republicans. Aid is set to expire Nov. 30 for some unemployed, and with Congress out of session next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, lawmakers will have little time to find agreement before then.
“This bill is like déjà vu all over again, and not in a good way,” said Representative Charles Boustany, a Louisiana Republican. “We all want to help those in need but the American people also know someone has to pay when government spends money, and it shouldn’t be our children and grandchildren.” Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said “ending unemployment assistance will not only be devastating for these individuals and their families but it will also hurt the economy as a whole by undermining consumer confidence and demand.”
About 8,400 Americans will see their unemployment checks cut off by the end of the first week of December, according to Labor Department estimates. By the end of the third week of December, 1.36 million Americans will be affected if Congress doesn’t act, the agency said. The unemployment rate last month was 9.6 percent. Jobless benefits were cut off earlier this year for some unemployed people after a similar dispute in the Senate led by Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning.
[Senate Jobs Bill blocked by Republicans] Unfortunately, Republican senators objected to Senator Stabenow’s bill (S3706, outlined below) and it was block in Congress from proceeding further. This means that Federal emergency unemployment benefits begin phasing out at the end of this month, which will reduce the weeks of benefits available to unemployment-insurance claimants
For the past year, eligible jobless workers could receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. This includes up to 26 weeks of regular benefits, up to 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) and up to 20 weeks of extended benefits. With the end of EUC, people who are drawing regular benefits at the end of November and people who file new claims after Nov. 27 will be limited to 46 weeks of benefits.
“Although Congress has stepped in at the last minute and continued the program several times over the past two years, it doesn’t look like there will be another save this time,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. “As a result, thousands of unemployed workers will find their benefits ending sooner than they expected.”
Emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits are paid out in a series of four tiers. When the program ends, claimants will be allowed to continue claiming benefits through the duration of their existing tier, but those in tiers 1, 2 or 3 may not advance to the next tier. Instead, they would advance to the extended-benefits program.
Claimants are currently being notified by the expiration of the EUC benefits. After completing some final computer programming over Thanksgiving weekend, various state departments will send notices telling claimants which EUC tier they are in, if applicable, and will be able to tell them how many weeks of emergency unemployment compensation and extended benefits they have remaining.
[Update August 2010] Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced a bill – s3706, Americans Want to Work Act – in the Senate that would provide extra weeks of benefits to people who’ve reached the end of their unemployment insurance lifelines (Tier 5) in states with over 7.5% unemployment. The measure would provide 20 extra weeks of unemployment benefits and extend the existing HIRE tax credit for businesses that hire workers who’ve been unemployed for 60 days or longer.
“Across our state, more than 35,000 people who have lost their jobs have also exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits. I know that these men and women want to work and have been trying their best to find jobs in this difficult economy,” said Stabenow. “My legislation cuts taxes for businesses that hire new workers who have been looking for work the longest. My bill also provides 20 more weeks of unemployment insurance to people in states like ours with the highest number of people out of work.”
The Americans Want to Work Act extends through 2011 the successful HIRE Act tax credit which cuts payroll taxes for businesses that hire workers who have been out of work for longer than 60 days and also gives them a $1,000 general business tax credit for each worker employed for at least a year. The Stabenow bill also doubles the tax credit to $2,000 if businesses hire workers who have totally exhausted their unemployment benefits.
Recent reports from the Department of Treasury show that from February to June of this year, businesses hired approximately 5.6 million new workers who had been out of work for eight weeks or more. This bill will have to be approved in the Senate before going to the house for congressional approval (assuming no other changes). Past extensions have been tough to get approved amid complaints they would add too much to the deficit, which is likely to impede this bill as well.
[Update July 2010] The U.S. Congress and the President broke a Republican filibuster and approved legislation restoring unemployment benefits to 2.5 million Americans who lost aid during a political dispute over how to pay for it. Benefits will be extended for those who have already used their standard 26 weeks of unemployment. Republicans had stalled the $33.9 billion package (HR 4213) for weeks, arguing that aid should be paid by making cuts elsewhere. Democrats have maintained that jobless benefits are emergency spending that traditionally have not been offset.
The legislation would extend through November a program offering the long-term unemployed up to 99 weeks of assistance and provide aid retroactively to those whose checks were cut off by the impasse. It would push total unemployment benefit spending this year to more than $130 billion, a 50 percent increase from last year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Democrats dropped other unemployment assistance provisions amid complaints over the cost, including a 65 percent subsidy created last year to help the jobless buy health insurance through their former employers (COBRA). There is no plan to extend them during this session of Congress even though it benefited 2 million households last year, according to the Treasury Department. The measure wouldn’t renew an additional $25 weekly jobless benefit (Federal Additional Compensation Program) that was part of last year’s economic stimulus. That means that all retroactive payments would be for $25 less than what they were before June 2nd, as will all payments in new tiers. Nor would it extend a tax exemption for the first $2,400 in unemployment aid.
Also, Democrats don’t plan to extend aid to the growing number of Americans who have already received the maximum 99 weeks of allowable aid (Tier V or Tier 5 provision). 99 weeks (Tier IV) would still be the maximum amount of a time a person could receive benefits for in states with high unemployment rates, and 86 weeks (Tier III) would still be the max in states with low unemployment rates.
A number of other jobs-related provisions, including plans to send additional aid to state governments, that once comprised Democrats’ election-year agenda were jettisoned amid complaints they would add too much to the deficit
The unemployment benefits extension debate will be reread over and over again in the coming months as part of the talking points in the platforms of both Parties as they campaign toward the November elections. Republicans will accuse Democrats of wasteful spending tendencies, steering the country in the wrong direction, crushing the nation’s grandchildren with massive deficit spending. Democrats will accuse Republicans of a lack of vision, not willing to tax the rich but perfectly willing to deny the poor (and unemployed), and press the idea that it was 12 years of deregulation and profligate spending under a Republican-led Congress, plus the disastrous economic policies — continuous tax breaks — of the Bush administration, that led to the current economic situation.
[Update Mar 2010] Congress and now the President have approved a $45 billion plan to expand a tax credit for first-time home buyers, extend jobless benefits and provide tax refunds to money-losing companies. The bill (H.R.3548) will be funded from the $787 billion stimulus originally approved in Feb 2009.
Unemployment Benefits Extension
The government is proposing to spend $2.4 billion to extend unemployment benefits for between 14 to 20 weeks, enough to cover the upcoming holiday season. States with the highest unemployment would get the highest unemployment benefits. The extension will benefit nearly 1 million out-of-work people who will run out of benefits by the end of the year. If HR3548 passes with the proposed amendments unemployed workers would generally get the following additional benefits:
- 14 weeks extra for everyone in any US state (up from the 13 initially proposed by the house in the unemployment compensation Extension act, S. 1699)
- An additional 6 weeks, for a total of 20 weeks, for those in states with unemployment at or over 8.5% (3 month average)
With enactment, the jobless in the hardest-hit states could receive up to 99 weeks of benefits, which average about $300 a week
Extended Home Buyer Credit
The $8,000 home buyers’ tax credit enacted earlier this year and slated to expire on November 30th 2009, will now continue until April 30 and contain the following new provisions.
- First-time home buyers who close before April 1 would get the full $8,000, and the credit’s value would be reduced by $2,000 in each successive quarter until expiring at the end of the year.
- The plan would extend the credit, due to expire Nov. 30, to home purchases under contract by April 30, 2010, with borrowers allowed another 60 days to close the sale, according to a person familiar with the details of the agreement.
- Current Homeowners looking for a new home could also qualify for a $6,500 credit if they have lived in their existing primary residence for at least five years
- The home buyers’ credit would be available to individuals earning up to $125,000, or $250,000 for couples, up from $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples under the current law.
- Tax Credit Exclusions: Homes that cost more than $800,000 aren’t eligible for the credit and you must be over 18 years old to claim the credit. Those who sell their new home or stop using it as their main residence within three years would have to repay the credit.
The Treasury Department estimates that more than 1.4 million Americans have taken advantage of the home buyer credit at a cost so far of about $10 billion. Democrat leaders say expanding the credit to those who already own homes would help create jobs because “the move-up buyer is more inclined and capable of buying that furniture, maybe building a porch, putting a garage on, a new roof” and making the “kinds of investments I think is going to be a job-creator across the country.” Republicans, called the tax credit a waste of money, saying studies show that most of those claiming the break would have bought homes anyway.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a research note yesterday that the credit probably spurred 200,000 home sales that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. Extending the credit to people who own homes wouldn’t reduce the excess housing blamed for the slump because “every buyer taking advantage of the move-up credit would necessarily be a seller,” Goldman Sachs said. It said the plan may increase housing prices by 1 percent because “sellers are likely to incorporate a fraction of the credit amount in their sale prices.”
The senate approved legislation also would expand provisions in the stimulus package allowing companies to apply their losses to previous years’ income, thereby reducing their tax bills and allowing them to claim refunds. Banks and other institutions receiving assistance from the Treasury Department’s TARP program wouldn’t be eligible.
Lawmakers are still considering whether to extend several other elements of the stimulus package, including subsidies to help the jobless buy health insurance and increased funds for food stamps. Obama has also called for sending seniors $250 checks because they won’t get a cost-of-living increase next year in their Social Security checks. I will provide updates on these and progress of the above bill through Congress, and encourage you to subscribe (free) via Email or RSS to get the latest news.
References : Bloomberg