Last week saw a number of state actions regarding unemployment benefits. Some actions were helpful while others could be punishing to the unemployed and future unemployed. In fact, some actions were good, some were bad and one was simply ugly.

State legislators in FL and MO considered decreasing the number of weeks that a jobless worker can collect benefits, while other legislation was signed extending unemployment legislation for those who have not exhausted the state maximum. No state legislation was proposed to extend benefits to 99ers, although H.R. 589 is still being pushed by Reps. Lee and Scott.

The good:


Although SB 637 will not help 99’ers who have exhausted their benefits as of October 2010.  SB 637 will help claimants who have not yet exhausted all of their regular benefits, Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) extension benefits, and Extended Benefits (EB).  SB 637 will help those who have received less than 99 weeks receive up to 99 weeks.


Senators passed extended unemployment benefits for thousands of jobless Idaho workers, over objections of conservative lawmakers who called this a “hand-out, not a hand-up.”

It will keep long-term unemployed workers eligible for federal jobless benefits through 2011. Nearly 17,800 jobless Idaho workers were receiving these extended unemployment benefits in February.


Gov. Mark Dayton has signed a law keeping Minnesota’s jobless eligible for 13 weeks of extended federal unemployment benefits.

The Democratic governor signed the bill into law on Wednesday, saying the extension is “vitally important.”

Dayton says the law will help 55,000 unemployed state residents get up to $160 million in benefits through the end of the year.

The legislation makes a technical adjustment in state law to keep unemployed Minnesotans eligible for up to 86 weeks of benefits. Without the change, they would have lost out on 13 of those weeks.

Some state legislators took the initiative to help the unemployed, but others are taking a differnet approach that is not as friendly.

The bad:


The House passed a bill to decrease unemployment benefits to a maximum of 20 weeks, down from the current 26. If Florida’s unemployment reaches 5 percent — January’s rate was 11.9 percent — the maximum would be cut to 12 weeks of jobless benefits.

What’s next: The proposal heads to the Senate.

Currently there are 1.1 million unemployed in FL, so the chances of FL unemployment becoming 5% or less are remote. Yet this does show how legislators in some states are bashing the unemployed for not having jobs when there aren’t enough jobs to go around for those that want jobs.

Many FL unemployed and advocates took their message to the 

FL statehouse:

More than 200 unemployed and concerned Floridians from across the state gathered in the back of the state capitol Wednesday morning.

Their rally was in opposition to House Bill 7005, which they say is an attack on unemployed workers and public workers.

The group says “NO” to job cuts and want legislators to get their message loud and clear.

Unemployed rally in Florida



In Missouri, the brouhaha jeopardizes two federal outlays proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and passed by the House. They involve:

  • An estimated $96 million that would extend unemployment benefits for 20 weeks to longtime unemployed Missourians.

Currently, people who have exhausted their 79 weeks of unemployment benefits can apply for 20 weeks of extended aid, paid 100 percent by the federal government.

However, under state law, that program is expiring, and checks will be cut off April 2 if the Legislature doesn’t renew it.

There are 13,000 people in the program now; 34,000 people could run out of benefits by the end of the year if the program isn’t extended, according to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Both the efforts in FL and MO are misguided as they blame the unemployed for not having a job when the latest BLS statistics show that there are currently 2.8 million job openings for 24.7 million unemployed and underemployed, or more than 8.8 unemployed/underemployed per job opening.

The ugly:

The following legislative mismanagement is likely to cost unemployed Iowans a chance to receive federally approved unemployment benefits

Iowa has missed its chance to secure $14.5 million in federal money for extra unemployment benefits to Iowans who have been jobless for more than a year, according to state workforce officials.

Democratic legislators were scrambling to apply for 13 extra weeks of benefits for about 7,150 Iowans.

The urgency: Once Iowa’s new, lower unemployment numbers came out today, the state would no longer qualify.

While the bad legislative actions by some misguided conservative state legislators to limit unemployment benefits is expected, the opportunity missed by the Iowa legislature shows how disconnected they acted toward the 7150 Iowans who will be without any financial support. If this available federal money was a set-aside for farm subsidies to 7150 farmers or a business tax break to 7150 businesses, the Iowa legislators would have paid much more attention to the details.

H.R.  589:

This legislation which would help 99ers, those who have exhausted all unemployment benefits, was still being discussed. According to Lauren Victoria Burke of Crewof42:

Yesterday afternoon (March 10), as House Republicans voted to end foreclosure assistance (for the unemployed), I spoke with Rep. Barbara Lee on the status of her unemployment insurance extension bill, H.R. 589. “We’re looking for the money, we’re working with the White House and we’re trying to identify the ‘payfors,” Lee said.  She added, “Under the paygo rules there is a provision to allow you to designate something as an ‘economic emergency,” which would allow you to do something without finding the payfor…”

As Burke later states, Boehner has not seen Lee/Scott Letter Yet. As Speaker Boehner walked to the House floor I asked him if he had seen the letter Reps. Lee and Bobby Scott sent to him on Wednesday, March 9th.  He said he had not seen the letter yet. When I asked him if there was any possibility he’d meet with Lee and Scott he simply repeated he hadn’t seen the letter and walked on to the House floor for votes.

How the Speaker could not have yet seen this much-discussed legislation seems odd, but there appears to be a communication issue that needs to be addressed if this proposed legislation has any chance of becoming law.

Unfortunately for 99ers, the current House schedule does not show any time set aside to address H.R. 589.

But there is the obligatory Republican drive to end funding for NPR as well as Republican efforts to end foreclosure assistance to the unemployed and other individuals who face foreclosure. It will take a Herculean effort by Democratic legislators to get H.R. 589 to the floor of the House for serious consideration.

March Madness U-Cubed style

U-Cubed, an advocacy group for the unemployed is offeirng its own version of March Madness:


In the spirit of March Madness, UCubed has created its own set of brackets – for the unemployed.

Do you know how your hometown stacks up? Fill out the “Marching to Madness” unemployment brackets and rank the city you think is suffering the most. On Friday, March 18th 2011, UCubed will fill in the brackets with actual rankings from the BLS.

For more information on this effort, see U-Cubed “March to Madness” Deadline: March 18th 2011


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One Comment to “Some states propose cutting unemployment benefits: The good, the bad and the ugly. H.R. 589 for 99ers is still being discussed.”

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