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Unemployment Benefits On The Line: Will Congress Let The Plan Die?
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Unemployment Benefits On the Line: Will Congress Let the Plan Die?

Congress is facing a vote to renew the long term unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans currently out of work. If the Republicans get their way in the vote, those benefits might end even faster for some. The workers who are in the most depressed states will feel the effects of that vote much harder than other states, but the loss of extended benefits may be devastating across the nation.

California, where the unemployment rate is hovering near twelve percent will see the maximum time for unemployment benefits dropped from nearly one hundred weeks to just under sixty weeks. Other states, such as Michigan, Illinois and Florida will see their own maximum drop by forty weeks as well.

Democrats are reportedly in favor of voting for a complete renewal of the plan as it is currently written, allowing each state to set their own maximum time to collect benefits, based on the unemployment statistics in that state. Currently the states allow between 60-99 weeks of unemployment benefits, based on the job markets and potential for new jobs as well as other factors. The Republicans are in favor of cutting as much as twenty weeks of benefits from workers, some who have been out of work for nine months or more at a time.

Unemployment is set up in a four tiered system- the first tier would be untouched by the Republican plan but the second tier would lose one week. The Republicans would totally kill off the third and fourth tiers, bringing the total to twenty weeks of benefits that would no longer be made available. If the plan is not renewed as it is written, nearly two million Americans would lose their unemployment checks almost immediately. While nearly six million others would lose their benefits through the year.

The White House is in complete favor of renewal of the plan which would impact millions during the winter months which are historically the hardest for certain industries.

The benefits package vote is linked to others in a spending bill that includes the extension of the payroll tax cut which will expire at the end of the year. House Republicans are also trying to use the unemployment benefits vote to put pressure on the Democrats to vote through an oil pipeline which would extend from Canada to oil refineries in the Gulf Coast. The President had postponed making any decisions on that pipeline until a complete review of how the project would impact the environment.


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