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Your Take: Should Unemployment Benefits Be Extended Again?

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Umbrella on a Rainy DayEarlier this week CNN Money posted a story that pegged the bill for unemployment benefits at around $319 billion over the last three years. In those three years, the length of benefits has steadily increased to the now 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Ninety-nine weeks is nearly two full years of unemployment benefits. On November 30th, approximately two million unemployed individuals will lose coverage because they’ve been on unemployment benefits for so long. The total number of people collecting unemployment insurance is 8.5 million, which includes 4.8 million on federal benefits.

On the one hand, giving unemployment benefits is probably one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy. I think it’s safe to say that those on unemployment and collecting insurance will probably be spending that money, which goes right back into the economy. Unlike other methods of stimulus, very few are saving this cash for a rainy day because it is a rainy day.

As an aside, to all those folks screaming at the bank rescue bailouts and car manufacturer bailouts and wondering where their bailout is… this is it. 99 weeks of unemployment insurance is that bailout.

On the other hand, 99 weeks is a very long time and I’m stunned by the number of people who have been unemployed for so long. You have to throw all your assumptions out the window because two million is a lot of people and many, if not all of them, have to be hurting to be out of work that long. You can’t assume they’re lazy and happy collecting insurance for 99 weeks. You can’t assume they’re picky job seekers and passed on jobs in the last 99 weeks. You just have to take it at face value and understand that it’s just been impossible for them to find a job. Sure, you’ll have a few people who are too picky or happy cashing the checks for 99 weeks but I’d put on my compassion hat and say the rest are truly having a difficult time (unemployment insurance isn’t exactly a windfall either).

Another aside, it turns out that in the time I wrote this (Wednesday) and when this will post (Friday), the House failed to pass a bill that would have extended benefits.

What do you think?

(Photo: yourdon)

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300 Responses to “Your Take: Should Unemployment Benefits Be Extended Again?”

  1. Toby says:

    I am a small business owner. I believe that more screening should be done for those applying for unemployment benefits. While there are some who are absolutely deserving, there are others who know how to abuse the system. We are currently appealing the claim of one such person.

    This person consistently came in late, was disrespectful, and left early whenever possible. This person found another job and didn’t show up for work. Now they want to draw off of us. Yes, they have another job, and still won their claim on us.

    The current system is unfair to employers. Reform is needed.

    • Don says:

      This could say more about you as an employer, than about the person that you hired. Perhaps you should take a long hard look at your hiring practices, you are blaming the individual for everything, however, having worked in HR for 20 plus years I know it is not that cut and dry.

      As is the case within any social system there are always going to be those that know how to work the system, and they will do so. However, you seem to be indicating that those who are unemployed are working the system. Yes, I agree that there will always be those who will use the system, however, with numbers in the millions you have insulted a lot of people.

  2. Amy says:

    I feel incredibly grateful every day for my full time job, as I work with unemployed people, trying to help them find work by writing resumes and coaching them.

    I’ve never seen anything like this economy. There is just one job for every five unemployed people.

    Extending tax cuts to the nation’s wealthiest 1% costs our country $700B, and studies have shown they don’t inject that money back into the economy, but rather save it.

    Unemployment benefits have cost the country $350B over the PAST THREE YEARS; much less than the tax cuts are costing us. And, as referenced in this article, unemployment benfits will be injected back into the economy.

    Nutshell summary: Tax cuts are more costly and don’t help the economy. Unemployment benefits are less costly and do help the economy.

    Let it never be said that our legislators are logical.

    • Hilltopper says:

      That cost of $700B for maintaining current tax rates for the 1% wealthiest (there is no cut), is a projection for TEN years. And it is regarding the top TWO percent. (Search for Geithner tax cuts 700 billion).
      So tax “cuts” in this case are less.
      What’s needed are incentives for rich people to invest in the economy rather than save the money. How about easing up on some of the incredible regulations now in place? (Does your toaster work well? Do your light bulbs dim correctly?) For example, lowering the minimum wage would allow many more young minorities to get jobs. (search walter williams minimum wage)

  3. christian says:

    There are many on the verge of loseing their homes with out this help until jobs are available. I have a family that lost her job and has hit 99wk. If people have never used their benifits before, than that should be concidered. Some people have been in the same field all their adult life and become job specific even with a good education! Very
    painful and fearful when they have a family. How do we American’s use tax payer funds to help others in the world and continue to put our own out on the street. I am conservative but this is not justice!

    • ANGRYAMERICAN says:

      Smartest thing Ive heard all day.

      • Don says:

        I completely agree with you, this country is on the verge of financial collapse, and we are going to borrow more money to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals in the country. The bush administration created this mess with its economic policies, or lack there of, yet we are going to carry them forward. The republican party is telling their wealthy friend, “Yes Virginia there is a santa clause, and he will be bringing you sleighs full of money.”

        • John says:

          there you liberals go again, blaming bush and his tax cuts for the evil rich. time to correct another lie that’s spoonfed to the ignorant. bush’s taxes are estimated by Pew to be responsible for less than 15% of bush’s deficits. the were not a break just for the rich, and i dont understand why this lie is so widespread. the top 1% paid less than 36% of all income taxes before the cuts, and about 40% 4 years after them, so the rich paid a larger share of the tax burden. he established the 10% tax bracket for the country’s poorest individuals. he also eliminated large taxes in home ownership paper profits, which benefitted lots of poor people who bought their homes years ago, watched them appreciate value, and then would have had to pay outrageous taxes on the gains. stop spreading lies, tax cuts dont just help the rich. spending is responsible for the debt, and obama has added 1.5 times as much public debt as bush in 1/4 the time.

  4. I am torn on the issue of whether unemployment benefits should be extended. These benefits are a safety net and without them the unemployed in general will suffer and go into further financial ruin. On the other hand, as structured, the unemployment program may not create the incentive for those receiving the benefits, to get a job. Furthermore, there do not appear to be any jobs–at least desirable ones. I would like to see the program restructured to compensate people for getting a job (any job) instead of penalizing them for getting one by losing all benefits when they find one.

    • ANGRYAMERICAN says:

      How about this , welfare receives benefits for years and years. Pay no taxes out of it and a lot of them use the money on drugs or other things. Unemployment, you pay taxes out of. You worked and put money into the tax system, welfare dont. They give billions in aide to foreign countries and their own citizens are failing to stay afloat Im one of them. I worked every since I was 13years old was laid off. I cant find anything, applied to 70 different machine shops nothing.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’d just like to say that my husband has been receiving unemployment benefits for two years. I can’t tell you how many resumes he has submitted and applications he has filled out, but the jobs just are not there. Further, while the UC benefits help tremendously, without my salary (unless I get laid off also), those benefits would NEVER allow us to pay our mortgage and our bills. The amount of the benefits DO NOT replace his salary. It is only a portion of what he made while employed. No one lives high on unemployment. I’m very much against continuing the tax “rates” (semantics) for the wealthy 1 or 2%. The majority of those on unemployment are struggling to provide the bare necessities for their families…without the the tax cuts, the wealthy would still be living quite well.

  6. John says:

    There are lots of misconceptions on where unemployment benefits come from. Of the 20 people (10 employed, 10 unemployed or recently unemployed) I interviewed only 6 people (all employed) knew that former employers in essence pay for the benefits (misconception by the unemployed was that they, the employee, paid thousands into it). With average benefits at ~300/wk (note higher than min wage) after nearly 100 weeks of unemployment, former employers paid 30,000 in benefits (at least theoritically as the actual process – employers paying a few hundred per employee per year based on a 6-10% of first 7-9K, % changes based on # of claims… – too complex to elaborate on so do your own due diligence and read). Lets say 5 former employees claimed that is 150K, which in no fashion benefits the company (cost of doing business), they could have hired 2 of those employees back and paid a decent wage (of course this is all extreme case to illustrate a point). If there is 1 job for every 5 unemployed, if we didn’t pay unemployment there could be 3 for every 5 and the other 2 would be forced to get jobs at min or slightly above wages. I post an ad on craigslist $50 for 3-4 hours of basic yard work and most of the “desperately searching” unemployed call it an insult (“tax free” $50 for 3-4 hours work is insulting). I guess so when you can do nothing and receive $300/wk at the expense of the working workforce that are helping those employers earn the money you are so ungrateful for. I much rather have the money injected through SMB (not wealthy) then unemployed buying consumer goods which a significant portion of basic necessities are imported goods w/ the money going overseas. I rather the money be used for services.

  7. Mgirl says:

    The whole system needs overhauled. I believe some people really do need extended benefits, however I would say a majority of people are abusing the system. Everyone I personally know who is on unemployment has stated that they will collect as long as possible rather than take a paycut and end up making the same amount they can sit back and collect. But, those people ruin it for those who truly do need help.

    First of all…community service should be required. Even week those collecting unemployment should have to log so many hours of community service.

    Secondly…weekly drug tests.

    Thirdly…do away with seasonal unemployment. It’s about the dumbest concept I’ve ever heard.

    Fourthly…Force people to WORK. For them to take minimum wage jobs if need be. Force them to work 2 full time jobs if that’s what it takes to pay the bills. American is changing, we need to accept that we will have to work harder for less.

    The attitudes of us Americans needs to change as well. When times our good we need to save as much as we can. The whole mindset that we have to HAVE things needs to stop. What’s wrong with living in a modest home that you can comfortably afford? Why drive the newest of vehicles? Why take luxury vacations every year?

    I’m 29 and my husband is 32. I’m a stay at home mom to our little boy and my husband is a software engineer. I got my RN degree when I was 21 and SAVED every dime I made until I quit to be a stay at home mom. Yep, every single cent was saved and we lived off my husbands income(actually we saved roughly 30% of his income as well). Because of that we own our home, have 2 newer paid off vehicles, and a nice savings account. (We live in Indianapolis where housing is very affordable, so that was a plus). Our plan is, when our son starts school I will go back to work and we will once again save everything I make and continue to live off one income.

    So this country needs to change in a lot of ways. The government should help those in need, but Americans have got to stop feeling so entitled. I’m all for extending benefits, but the system does need a LOT of improvements.

    • Arnie says:

      1) No to extended unemployment benefits…it has gone on for too long and also keeps unemployed numbers too high, i.e. little incentive for too many people to look for jobs. If you can’t find a job right now making the money you made before, you may just have to take one that pays less temporarily, and possibly in a field you may not like. The jobs are out there, it just may not be the perfect job right now.
      2) Yes to reducing or even eliminating minimum wage laws. Minimum wage laws inhibit businesses from hiring, keep unemployment high especially for young people who are new to the work force and need experience.
      3) Yes to extend current income tax rates for EVERYONE. The wealthy (defined by the politicians as those making more than 250K per year) include small businesses as well. They do not save the extra money, they by and large INVEST in their business or in other businesses, thus increasing hiring and increasing purchases of goods and services.

  8. Amanda Berendt says:

    My aunt has worked her entire life doing data entry. She always has made 12 ro 13 dollars and hour and budgeted and raised her daughter alone. She will be on her last week of unemployment ( 99rs ) Jan 2011. She has no husband, no parents, and one sister who is my mother. My mother and father can barely make it, do to a 10% decrease in wage my father took after working 30 years loyalty for the City of Detroit. My aunt will probably be able to recieve food benifits, but who will pay her rent? Heat? Electric? Do you know how hard it is for a 58 year old women to compete in this job market for a data entry position. She has no education, and no other experience. If she ( which she has not even been called for a job like this ) took a minimum wage job how can she live, she would not be eligble for food assistance, and still have to pay her bills. Did you ever think how can someone go to their job when they need a car, gas and insurance to drive how can she pay this. Something needs to be done, money should not sit in banks for wealthy drawing interest, while others are becoming orphins….. REMEMBER YOU CANNOT TAKE MONEY TO THE GRAVE ONLY DEEDS! God help us all.

  9. carrie says:

    Well now all of you that lost your cushy jobs now see what it’s like to be poor like the rest of us. Now you know what it’s like trying to live on minimum wage (no so fun is it?) Ha Ha Ha

    • Dena says:

      Well… that is the American Spirit for you. How disappointing that someone would post something like this. No matter what “boat” we are in usually I hear compassion to one degree or another for the situation all are in. Guess those who have jobs making minimum wage that they have always had but resent others can now be happy that Everyone is going to go down with the ship together if America’s Economy doesn’t recover as quickly as possible.

  10. Sandy H says:

    I have been unemployed before – for 8 months. The most humbling experience in my life! My wife and family had to make HUGE adjustments in our way of life – doing without, kids taking on paying part time jobs, and even moving when we just simply could not stay in the house we were in because payments were too high. I really believe that for many people, that is a problem. They don’t want to move. They don’t want to move out of a city or state to where jobs are. They try to make it work as if a bread winner is only going to be unemployed for a short while – that he/she will be rehired soon at the same salary as before. Changes must be made! Expectations must be lowered! Pump gas if you have to! Work at McDonald’s/Pizza Hut/tend bar – whatever! No one ever said that you have a right NOT to be uprooted when things go bad. I finally entered back into the workforce making 50% of what I was making when I left, but I needed to have a job and bring in some money to the household! In the 10 years since, my pay has increased almost 250% after several promotions. Unemployment is supposed to be a short term gap filler and NOT a way of life! People should stop whining and get a job(s) – any job(s)! Move if you have to. . .rent if you have to. . .sell a car if you have to. . .make the necessary steps to SELF-FULFILL!!!! Do not leave it up to the government and other tax payers to provide subsistence. Take responsibility for your own well-being and get a job! Stop being controlled and take control!

  11. Wendy says:

    I am so sick of people in this country being so judgmental! I was laid off on a Friday with ZERO notice after working in my industry for 10+ years making around $25/hour (I am in TEXAS). I am a single Mom of FOUR children & due to our poor state system, the father of my children has gotten away with not paying child support for years (over 10K behind) so I have been forced to make it on my own and not count on his support which is suppose to add an extra 1K to my monthly income. I have been on unemployment now for 16 months and LIFE IS HARD! Anyone on unemployment certainly does not “make money” and I highly doubt most people just sit around collecting what’s considered a small fraction of what we made before. I have made cuts everywhere possible. I live in a small, 4 bedroom house and have one kid that shares a bedroom with me. I cut coupons, don’t turn on the heat or a/c unless forced, don’t buy anything outside of what we NEED and not WANT and with Christmas coming, my children have been forced to understand the money is just not there. I will NOT go on food stamps although I have been encouraged several times. IF I make even a tiny amount of money and report it, it’s automatically deducted from my already small unemployment amount. Once I get a job I am immediately cut off unemployment. I have looked for jobs at half of what I was making and there is nothing out there. I spend several hours a day searching and applying and am shocked at how there is hardly a response from any of these companies. In fact, in the last 16 months after applying to hundreds of jobs with my experience, I have not gotten ONE interview! Yes, I have applied at even fast food restaurants and I am being told the adults with COLLEGE DEGREES are taking those jobs first!! So, wake up America! It’s not as easy as you think. If you have a full time job, don’t be too secure as you may lose yours without notice also.

    • Sandy H says:

      Life IS hard and is only made harder when you are as bitter as you are. Turn inward to your faith, which is not mentioned in your tirade. And MOVE out of 4 br house to another state where jobs can be had. I can be judgemental and understanding, since I have been in your shoes. But your bitterness and anger is only a hinderance – I know. Cause I had the same feelings. Sorry! There are jobs out there. . .maybe not in your town/city, but they are out there. My son who is mildly autistic has one at Radio Shack and I SERIOUSLY doubt you have as much to complain about as he does!! Not at $25/hr – but a job!!! Which is my point. Now, find a church, find your relationshhip with God and pray! I will pray for you! The first thing I will pray for is for your self pity, anger, and frustration to be calmed and then I bet a job opportunity will be there. Nobody, absolultely nobody ever said life would be easy. If it were, everyone would be eating cake. I am not and I know you aren’t, but you are eating. There are those who are less fortunate. Remember that and that might just give you the boost you need to find something. . .anything that will get you back on your feet. Good luck!

    • Robert says:

      Totally agree I worked 28 years for one company was terminated downsizing was loyal and hard working.I put in fifty applications to jobs i am well qualified for,even places advertizing help wanted. No response or even interviews.Basicly have spent a good portion of unemployment for gas car insurance trying to find work. Good luck to everyone.

  12. jaye says:

    This is difficult. There are some really working to find work; however, I do think some are extra picky and will freeload if they can.

  13. Jesus Acuna Sr. says:

    People who where laid off in Later 2008 and early 2009 with no College education and over the age of 55 are not employable by many company standards. And will not hire these type of individual for reasons of health and benefits.
    This is a type of discrimination that is in a gray area and kept there.
    So these people will eventually die paupers or commit crimes so they will be put in jail and have that system provide for them what our normal society can not and will not do in helping this older generation.

  14. Anonymous says:

    i think they should pass the bill being that some people lost homes in this tornado and the money would really come in handy now because some of them are without a job

  15. Craig De Lisle says:

    If our government can give away trillions to big business, and send many manufacturing jobs overseas, then there is absolutely no harm in giving families who lost jobs benefits to hold them over.

    I am a small business man, and hell yes, extend it another year. We can snap out of this recession doing two simple things. Drop business corporate taxes from 33% (16% in Canada) down to 5-10% for 5 years. 2, start some tariffs on oversea manufacturing goods and services and bring back jobs to US. Not hard tariffs, let’s say 50% tariffs to bring back half.

    However, I also do know that our government is really not looking out for us, the small businessman, or family. Yep, I do have somewhat of a bad attitude to those we trust in Washington.


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