Deal Trims Maximum Jobless Benefits To 73 Weeks

maximum jobless benefits dealBy Sam Hananel

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Long-term unemployed workers in states with persisting high joblessness soon would no longer be able to count on unemployment benefit checks for up to 99 weeks under legislation before Congress.

Under this week's compromise for extending a Social Security tax cut through the rest of 2012, federal unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work more than six months are being scaled back.

If Congress passes the bill and President Barack Obama signs it into law, the current maximum 99 weeks of benefits will gradually fall to 73 weeks by September. For people in all but about a dozen of the highest unemployment states, the benefits will be cut off after 63 weeks.

Democrats had hoped to keep the number as close as possible to 99 weeks, arguing that the benefits are critical for those struggling to make ends meet and provide a boost to the economy. Republicans wanted to reduce the maximum time span for benefits to 59 weeks, saying too many people don't seriously look for a job until the government checks quit coming.

The agreement would let both parties claim victory: Democrats say they preserved the program for another year, while Republicans claim they won major concessions by scaling back the program.

About 43 percent of the nation's nearly 13 million unemployed have been without work for more than six months, double the rate of any other economic downturn since the Great Depression. If Congress had not reached a deal to reauthorize the program, about a million people would have lost benefits next month.

"It's far from perfect, but it seems to be a responsible approach to the current problem of long-term unemployment," said George Wentworth, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group that supports long-term benefits.

It was not immediately clear how many people might lose out on benefits later this year under the new plan. Currently, 22 states are eligible for 93-plus weeks of unemployment insurance; just 18 get the full maximum of 99 weeks. The average unemployed worker receives less than $300 a week in benefits.

Wentworth said the gradual decrease would help cushion the blow for those relying on the benefits.

The plan would extend the current 99-week maximum through May for states with the highest unemployment rates. Benefits would drop to 79 weeks in June and to 73 weeks in September. Unless Congress extends the federal benefits again, people losing their jobs after July 1 will get only 26 weeks.

"This agreement is a step in the right direction," said James Sherk, a policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "However, two years of benefits was excessive when passed and a year-and-a-half of benefits in an improving labor market is still excessive."

The program was already winding down anyway. Under the current formula, the maximum coverage period would have fallen to 79 weeks in October.

The job market has been steadily improving and fewer people are filing for the benefits. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits last week was the lowest it's been in four years.

The new law will allow states to make benefit applicants take drug tests if they lost their job because they failed a drug test or are applying for a job that requires one. Republicans dropped an effort to let states require all applicants to take a drug test, or require applicants without a high school diplomas to pursue a GED certificate.

Next: Applications For Unemployment Benefits Drop To 4-Year Low

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Let's see what congressa and the president on 73 week unemployment benefits.Let's clean out congress and the president. All they do is think about themselves as to what they can get or have.The only thing that congress and the president thinks about the American people is how to raise taxes so they can get more. People wake up and smell the coffee. We need to take back this great country and start all over again. the constittion states that we can and it's about time that we do it KNOW

February 21 2012 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can't wait to see the shocked faces of our Congressmen when they see how many people losing unemployment benefits will line up at food banks and shelters or pitch a tent on the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.

February 21 2012 at 1:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The irony here is the government. The threat of raising taxes on businesses has them cutting back, laying off and having hiring freezes. People go on unemployment, subsidized by the government. And the vicious cycle continues. What a cluster! So, what will stop the cycle? Get the tax hungry Democrats out of Congress and that Socialist bozo out of the White House. Business will boom and the job market will bounce back.

February 20 2012 at 11:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some people are mistaken when they think they pay into unemployment insurance out of their own checks while employed. The employer is the only one who pays into an insurance fund for the employee if in case that employee is let go during a lay off. If you were denied benefits it's because you were disqualified by the state to collect benefits for reasons like you quit, were fired for misconduct, or something along that line. And if you think you were unjustly denied benefits you have a right to appeal before a judge.

February 20 2012 at 11:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joseph Gordon Holman

What about the people who where denied benefits outright. We didn't get 1 week of help not 1. I will never ever let them take unemployment benefits from my check again!!!! ever.

February 20 2012 at 10:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The last time I had an unemployment claim I was cut off at 20 weeks.

February 20 2012 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Excuse me for not jumping for joy at this news. I was caught in a mass layoff in 1993, collected Florida's unemployment payments for the maximum 26 weeks, backed by my prior employment for a specific period of time. The Florida requirements were that I actually contact five potential employers per week even though there was no hiring going on in the area, and it eventually wiped out my savings account to pay the mortgage and bills. The next move was to sell my house at a loss to get out from under the nortgage. Being over 50 years old at the time, even when positions did become available, I was at an age that was considered unemployable. The federal government didn't come to my aid, as there were no "giveaway" programs at the time. I surely don't feel that my taxes are being used to the best advantage by now paying the "99 %" additional unemployment benefits, many residing in states that don't have any requirements other than filing for this giveway! The Democraps won't be satisfied until everyone in America is living on the dole, but they're not smart enough to realize that someone has to be working to pay the taxes to cover the expense. If they took ALL the money that the "1%" own, it still wouldn't cover the cost! PLEASE VOTE INTELLIGENTLY IN 2012!!!

February 20 2012 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


February 20 2012 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


February 20 2012 at 10:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Corprate america spends Billions on sporting events,fancy dinners,vacations,and many other things. They then write them off as a business expense and the taxpayer subsidises it. We do not need to raise taxes on anyone just close the LOOPHOLES and make everybody pay their fair share. The Right will say the rich already pay 70% of the taxes,But what they dont tell you is they make 90% of the money and in order to be EQUAL they should be paying90% of taxes. But there is some very crafty and confusing LOOPHOLES available to the wealthy and the middleclass is getting screwed

February 20 2012 at 10:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cb427chevy's comment

What about Unions who get their retirees with buyouts unemployment benefits for 90 weeks!
That is on top of cash and pension!! Who do you think is paying for that scam?

February 20 2012 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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