State News

House moves to extend unemployment benefits

Posted September 21, 2009


— Despite predictions the Great Recession is running out of steam, the House is taking up emergency legislation this week to help the millions of Americans who see no immediate end to their economic miseries.

A bill offered by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and expected to pass easily would provide 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for more than 300,000 jobless people who live in states with unemployment rates of at least 8.5 percent and who are scheduled to run out of benefits by the end of September.

North Carolina had an unemployment rate of 10.8 percent in August. The rate has hung around 11 percent since May.

The 13-week extension would supplement the 26 weeks of benefits most states offer and the federally funded extensions of up to 53 weeks that Congress approved in legislation last year and in the stimulus bill enacted last February.

People from North Carolina to California "have been calling my office to tell me they still cannot find work a year or more after becoming unemployed, and they need some additional help to keep their heads above water," McDermott said.

Critics of unemployment insurance argue that it can be a disincentive to looking for work and that extending benefits at a time the economy is showing signs of recovery could be counterproductive.

Others, though, say this recession has been particularly pernicious to the job market.

Some 5 million people, about one-third of those on the unemployment list, have been without a job for six months or more, a record since data started being recorded in 1948, according to the research and advocacy group National Employment Law Project.

"It smashes any other figure we have ever seen. It is an unthinkable number," said Andrew Stettner, NELP's deputy director. He said there are about six jobless people for every job opening, so it's unlikely people are purposefully living off unemployment insurance while waiting for something better to come along.

The current state unemployment check is about $300 a month, supplemented by $25 included in the stimulus act.

That doesn't go very far when a loaf of bread can cost $2.79 and a gallon of milk $2.72, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said at a hearing last week on the unemployment insurance issue.

"We need to keep our unemployed neighbors from falling into poverty. We need to figure out how best to make our safety net work," Baucus said.

The jobless rate currently stands at 9.7 percent and is likely to hover above 10 percent for much of 2010. Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said at the Finance Committee hearing that, according to Labor Department figures, 51 percent of unemployment insurance claimants exhausted their regular benefits in July, the highest rate ever.

"It is likely the exhaustion rate will continue to increase in coming months" as the unemployment rate continues to rise, he said.

Stettner predicted that Congress will likely have to continue extending jobless benefits through 2011.

McDermott in July introduced a more ambitious bill that would have extended through 2010 the compensation programs included in the stimulus act. Those benefits are now scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

But with a price tag of up to $70 billion, that bill would have been far more difficult to pass. McDermott instead decided to offer the scaled-down 13-week extension to meet the urgent needs of those seeing their benefits disappear this year.

McDermott said his bill would not add to the deficit because it would extend for a year a federal unemployment tax of $14 per employee per year that employers have been paying for more than 30 years. It would also require better reporting on newly hired employees to reduce unemployment insurance overpayments.

Three-fourths of the 400,000 workers projected to exhaust their benefits this month live in high unemployment states that would qualify for the additional 13 weeks of benefits under his bill, McDermott said.

They include Alabama, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Other states could qualify for more benefits if their unemployment rates are approaching the 8.5 percent threshold.


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  • gcmann Sep 22, 2009

    DominicanNC -
    Unfortunately, this is legal, but it is wrong on so many levels - moral, patriotic, discriminatory, etc.. Our elected officials are bribed well by corporate America to allow this practice to continue and allow the legal limit to ever increase. Since these visas were put in place about 20 million (that's MILLION) Guest workers have been imported to fill American jobs. To add insult to injury, millions of American jobs in the past decade have been outsourced overseas.
    Here are a couple of links that make for some eye opening reading.

    The United States should not be in the business of keeping the rest of the world employed.
    I know so many highly skilled Tech workers that have been looking for any job in their field for over three years. Most are having to return to school for training in a new field or are working survival jobs just to feed their family.

  • rick_slick Sep 21, 2009

    I know! Let's let a bunch of illegal aliens invade the country/state/city and give them a bunch of free stuff and clear the way for them to attend NC Community Colleges. That'll help!

  • bresilver Sep 21, 2009

    My husband has been out of work for nearly a year. He had worked in the housing industry for several years. He has been taking classes (that we've been paying for) so he can go into another field. But of the hundreds of applications he has put in he has only gone on 2 interviews in the past year and one was out of state. All those years in the housing industry has ruined his chances. The 2 people he has heard from have told them they've gotten hundreds of applications/resumes. What are people supposed to do?! If it wasn't for the unemployment we'd have to pick up and move to live with his parents, which would mean I would have to give up my job and insurance b/c we can't afford to live on my salery alone, which feels like it could be gone any day now. What is this world coming to?

  • SME2 Sep 21, 2009

    Well, I want to know where I can get those prices - shopping yesterday and paid much higher than that for bread and milk! This is the same guy who wants to "save" us money with health care - get a reality check first. Milk was $3.99 a gallon yesterday (or higher if you want the premium brand). Bread was $3.49 on average! I guess folks in the Legislature get used to not having to pay their own way.- Tax Man

    Where are you shopping? @ Foodlion "good" bread is $1.79 and milk is $2.80

  • ncguy Sep 21, 2009

    Corporate greed is costing all of us!

    I live in cary also and my kid is now a minority in his class. The indian poplulation has exploded and there are 3 generations in each home.

    The trades have become a thing of the past when you can get 3 illegals for the price of 1 American. Unfortunatley the 1 American actually pays for his kids and his health care and his kids lunch.

    Hey I would take a 30 percent cut if my family got all that for free.

    health care for my family is 1K a month and that for fair to good coverage- far from no out of pocket like the illegals.

  • Adelinthe Sep 21, 2009

    Lord, I pray the do something.

    I've sent out over 100 resumes and have put in over 50 applications since being part of a massive layoff at Rockwell Automation October of last year.

    I come up against two (possibly three) things.

    1. I'm over-qualified, or

    2. I'm under-qualified, or

    3. Possibly someone is afraid that my qualifications will put their job at risk so they don't want me in the organization.

    I don't know what to do.

    At this point, I'd love to have a little cashier's job in Angier/Fuquay/Coats, etc. cause that would be close to my home and would save gas, but there's nothing here either.

    Praying for us all.

    God bless.


  • DominicanNC Sep 21, 2009

    JaiFlossy, the ESC offices are doing what they can right now. they are requiring all of those who are getting unemployment benefits to show proof that they are seeking work every two months and need to provide names of employers, dates and phone numbers. This is not a perfect plan but at least they are trying.

  • DominicanNC Sep 21, 2009

    gcmann, if that is the case, this is ground for a EEOC complaint under title VII. this is a clear case of reverse discrimination based on your statement. 1800-669-4000. Wed and thu are the best days to call right now.

  • foetine Sep 21, 2009

    these people just need to learn how to rob McDonalds and banks. there's always job opportunities in the life of crime.

  • gcmann Sep 21, 2009

    Unemployment for some is no problem.
    These being the foreign labor imported from india and other foreign countries on H-1B, L1, F1 and numerous other scams cooked up by corporate America. Corporate America is rapidly and systematically replacing high paid American workers with less skilled and cheaper foreign labor. I live in Cary, and the indian population in Cary/Morrisville is now over 30% and growing every month. The company in RTP (won't mention any names for the 3 letter big blue offender)I work for is constantly firing American workers and hiring foreign workers either off shore or blatantly firing Americans and placing H-1B workers in their place. You are forced to train your foreign replacement with the threat of no severance pay.
    This also hurts the American workers by driving down wages.

    You may see tech job postings, but these are not meant for American workers, only to satisfy a requirement of bringing in a foreign worker.