On Monday and Tuesday March 28 and 29, 99ers and 99er advocates will be contacting Speaker Boehner and Rep. Cantor to urge them to quickly pass H.R. 589. This legislation, proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) offers 14 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have exhausted unemployment benefits and are not currently working. With upwards of 4 million 99ers, this is vital legislation that will not only help those long-term unemployed, but it will also help the economy recover from its deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Please participate!

The following is taken directly from the American 99ers Union:

On Monday and Tuesday March 28 and 29, please contact House Speaker Boehner and Rep. Cantor
and urge them to pass H.R. 589 A.S.A.P.!

Speaker John Boehner:
http://www.speaker.gov/Contact/ (web mail)
Phone: 202-225-0600
Fax: 202-225-5117
@SpeakerBoehner (Twitter)

Majority Leader Eric Cantor:
http://cantor.house.gov/contact/ (web mail)
Phone : 202-225-2815
Fax: 202-225-0011
@GOPLeader (Twitter)

When calling please mention that you are a member of the American 99ers Union!

This isn’t out of ego for us but rather, Rep. Lee wants the A99U to be recognized as a large group with many members and so we must let them know who we are and that we are strong!

ALSO: Please continue to contact your own Congressperson by fax, phone or email and ask him or her to support Representative Barbara Lee’s H.R. 589 which would add a 14 week extension of unemployment insurance compensation to Tier 1 for all unemployed.

Especially if your Rep. is a Democrat ask him or her to please be willing to a) look for FUNDING for this bill by thinking outside the box; and b) be willing to “strike a deal” with Republicans, to give them something they want (a vote perhaps?), in order to get them to vote for this bill which millions need in order to survive because there still are not enough jobs and many of us are being foreclosed on and evicted with nowhere to go!

(At the above link if you join the site (Congress.org) you can then easily write all of your government contacts (House Representative, Senators and President) from that site and send them all the same letter with one click, track the progress and action on HR 589 and so on.)

It will help everyone if you will say that you are a member of the American 99ers Union when you contact your representative.

Your Congressperson’s contact information can be found at either of the following links:



Additionally, we ask that all American 99er Union member groups and their members support H.R. 589 by going to the American 99ers Union Campaign page at POPVOX.com and clicking on SUPPORT and joining POPVOX. This is a new way to reach our Representatives in Congress and has a great deal of promise for helping to get our word across in a meaningful way. So please take the time to join POPVOX and endorse HR 589 in this way!

Please try to meet with your Representative in person and discuss what it’s like being a 99er and how much you need this bill. Dress as nice as you can and be as polite and professional as you can. Take some stats with you about unemployment and how unemployment benefits are one of the best ways to stimulate the economy. One link with a lot of good information is here:

Once there, click on the EPI link at the top right and then go to Latest Research. The site has many articles about the lack of jobs and high unemployment. For example here is a good article:
Three Years Later, Millions Wait For Jobs

Here is a LETTER, composed by us that you can download and send by fax to your Representative, the Speaker, etc. or you can copy and paste it below and send it via their web mail. If you download it for faxing don’t forget to put your name, address and zip on it before faxing it.

Dear Representative,

As both your constituent, and Member of the American 99ers Union, I must request your immediate support of H.R. 589, The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act. This important piece of legislation must be signed into law without delay in order to save American lives and stimulate the economy back to health.

The American 99ers Union supports legislation that sustains once hard working Americans, stimulates the economy, and assists in getting Americans back to work. H.R. 589 accomplishes all of these goals.

Look at where the American economy is without extending unemployment insurance and investing in its Citizens:

  1. 1 million homes were lost to foreclosure in 2010.
  2. The National Unemployment Rate has remained at 9% or above for 21 consecutive months.
  3. Defaults on student loans are growing by more than $2,800 dollars per second.
  4. 147 banks shut their doors in 2010, as a result of a weak economy and soured loans.
  5. According to projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Income tax payments this year will be nearly 13 percent lower than they were in 2008. As a share of the nation’s economy, taxes collected this year will be the lowest since 1950.

With jobs in the business sector and at the Federal and State level declining and/or anemically moving forward, it is clear that we need to invest in America and Americans in order to help our economy back to health. By extending unemployment insurance to the longest-term unemployed, the unemployed can help bring the economy back to health, as consumer spending accounts for 70% of all economic activity. Therefore I must once again respectfully request that you join as a Co-Sponsor, and vote yes on H.R. 589, The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act.

Member, American 99ers Union
[Please add your name and address to the above and include “Member, American 99ers Union”]



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In a previous post States cutting unemployment benefits: the good, the bad and the ugly. H.R 589 I discussed how some states are addressing unemployment benefit extensions. States are still battling with the issue. Some state legislators are helping the unemployed, while other states are cutting benefits during a time of very slow job growth.

States across the country are dealing with balanced budget issues. Unlike the federal government, states need to produce balanced budgets. Most states are reluctant to raise taxes in a recession, since the voters aren’t in the mood to pay more money for the same services. And taxing the wealthy isn’t possible, since the wealthy own access to most statehouses and threaten to stop campaign contributions. As a result, states are cutting funding in areas of the budget that seem to receive voter approval; aid to the poor and the unemployed.

The Good:

New Jersey:

The Democratic State Senate in New Jersey is taking a different approach by recalculating the federal guidelines which will allow for unemployed New Jerseyans to collect 20 weeks of extended benefits.

The bill would broaden the first trigger to account for the unemployment rate for the preceding three years as opposed to the preceding two. By broadening the 110 percent trigger, New Jersey would be able to continue providing extended benefits, because the unemployment rate in 2008 was between 4.2 and 6.0 percent.  The continued payment extended benefits would not result an increased cost to the State’s Unemployment Insurance Fund, because the federal act provides for full federal funding of extended benefits through December 31, 2011.

New Jersey legislators realize that this extension will not affect their state budget and it will help thousands of unemployed. What stands in the way of this bill being passed? Republican Gov. Christie still needs to sign the legislation.

New York:

New York, like New Jersey, is expected to approve legislation that will allow extended unemployment benefits for up to 166,000 unemployed New Yorkers.

The new bill will amend state law and allow New York to qualify for a third year in the program. It is estimated that 166,000 unemployed New Yorkers will be affected by this legislation.

“This legislation is crucial aid for unemployed New Yorkers, because without it the state will forfeit an estimated $620 million in federally funded unemployment insurance benefits,” Thiele noted.

While New Jersey unemployed wait on republican Gov. Christie to sign extended unemployment legislation, New York’s democratic Gov. Cuomo is expected to sign extended unemployment benefits legislation.


By unanimous vote, the House passed Senate Bill 637, which would allow the state to draw additional federal unemployment money through the end of the year. There are currently 11,876 people participating in the federal extended benefits program, according to the Oregon Employment Department. With the legislation, officials estimate about 50,000 out-of-work Oregonians would qualify by the end of the year.

Under a plan approved by Congress in December, the federal government will pick up all the costs.

The House also endorsed Senate Bill 638, which offers an additional six weeks of state benefits to Oregonians who have been out of work for more than 99 weeks and have exhausted all other benefits, including the federal extensions.

The Bad


Some Missouri State Senate Republicans want to refuse federal funds that would allow unemployed Missourians to collect an additional 20 weeks of benefits:

Republican lawmakers in Missouri are balking at accepting federal dollars to pay for 20 weeks of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, even though the spending would not affect state budgets, and legislators in Michigan may follow suit.

Five Republicans in the Missouri Senate have launched a filibuster to prevent their legislature from implementing a technical change to its laws that would allow the state to accept the funds, which total roughly $96 million.

Unfortunately, a few Missouri State Senate republicans could suddenly end extended unemployment benefits for thousands of Missourians:

Long-term unemployed in Missouri will lose their benefits – KansasCity.com. The extended benefits program, which has been in place in Missouri for two years, uses federal funds to provide unemployment benefits up to 99 weeks. It would have funneled about $106 million in federal money to the state’s unemployed beginning in April and running through next January.

Other state and federal unemployment programs provide benefits up to 79 weeks and will remain in place.

But Thursday — the General Assembly’s last work day before a 10-day spring break — was effectively the deadline to pass the bill without an interruption of benefits for those unemployed past 79 weeks.

Because the Senate failed to act, the extended benefits program will expire March 27, and the final checks will go out April 2.

The state Department of Labor estimates 11,700 Missourians were receiving extended benefits in early March, while about 6,500 more were nearing the 79-week cutoff.

About 950 unemployed workers become eligible for the extended benefits each week, according to department officials.


In Michigan, they give and they take away:

While federally funded extended benefits are likely to be approved, there will be a cut in future state unemployment benefits:

Michigan’s long-term unemployed may soon be called 93ers instead of 99ers after the Republican-led state legislature passed a bill to reduce Tier 1 unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks for those who apply for benefits after January 2012.

The bill, which was written to prevent unemployment fraud, contained two amendments — one of which helps those currently unemployed avoid being cut off early. If that provision was not passed by Friday, 150,000 Michigan residents currently receiving unemployment would have lost their benefits before they ran out If Michigan again sees a job crisis, the unemployed will only receive 20 weeks of jobless benefits. How that will mesh with any federal program hasn’t been considered at this time.


Legislation takes away future state benefits:

Florida’s Republican-controlled House passed a bill curbing unemployment benefits as the state announced its jobless rate remained above 11 percent for the 15th consecutive month.

The bill, which passed by 81 to 38 in Tallahassee today, would reduce benefit coverage to 20 weeks from 26 and cap the maximum weekly payment at the current $275. The measure now moves to the Senate, also led by Republicans.

As with Michigan, this only affects state benefits, but how that will mesh with federal benefits is anyone’s guess at this point.


The Arkansas State Senate passed legislation that cuts the eligible unemployment benefit weeks by one and adds some qualifications.

Under the bill, the 26-week benefit period would be shortened to 25 weeks. Some of the qualifications for benefits also would be modified, he said.

The bill also requires that people who refuse to take another job at their place of employment, rather than being fired for poor performance, would not be eligible for benefits.

The Ugly


While any system designed to send money to individuals can be abused, it’s especially costly when the unemployed are the ones doing the abusing. A Michigan investigation showed millions of dollars in fraudulent claims attributed to false reporting and shoddy payment practices by the state’s employment department.

An newly released report by the Michigan Auditor General says Michigan passed out an extra $72.5 million in unemployment benefits, and failed to enforce fraud-related penalties of  up to $236 million.

Of the $72.5 million in overpayments, $8.2 million were from not adequately verifying a claimant’s identity, $7.9 million were from payments to ineligible aliens and $400,000 were paid out to dead people.

With more states trying to save money, the unemployed and the poor are the perfect scapegoats for cuts, especially when fraud can be proved. Business tax fraud, government fraud and mismanagement are not given the same weight as fraud perpetrated by poor and unemployed citizens.

Where are the jobs?

The Great Recession may be considered by some to be over, but the supposed recovery is still fragile and the job market has not provided the jobs necessary to substantially lower the unemployment rate. The main reason why the unemployment rate has fallen in the past two months is that so many people have given up looking for work.

If you actually adjust for the fact that the labour force participation rate has plunged this cycle to a 27-year low the unemployment would be sitting at 12% today.

Another fact that needs to be considered by these legislators in states considering the ending of extended benefits is that it will take the creation of 300,000 jobs each month for the next three years to reduce the unemployment rate to 7%, which is still historically high.

Currently there are more than 8 unemployed/underemployed and looking for a job for each one job opening. That’s not a jobs statistic that shows robust employment opportunities.

While the corporate media talking heads and government spin masters speak of a jobs recovery, the facts show otherwise. More than 6 million unemployed have been out of work for more than 27 weeks and the ranks of the 99ers continues growing with estimates ranging from two to 4 million or more.

AlterNet presents a story of how difficult the job market is for millions of long-term unemployed. Check it out:

8 Unemployed for Every Job Opening: What Are They Supposed to Do Once Their Benefits Run Out?

This is still a very difficult job market and until jobs are created in large numbers, unemployment benefits need to be extended.

Unemployment situation

Have you been the victim of a temp agency that won’t give you an interview because you are unemployed? Have you seen jobs ads for “employed only” or “unemployed need not apply”? Have you lost a chance at a job due to a poor credit score? Send your job rejection experiences to mike@layofflist.org.

You can also view my updates and new posts at Twitter: http://twitter.com/layofflist and Facebook

Huffington Post

Huffington Post is kind enough to give me a chance to post my work at their site. I hope to be able to spread the 99er word using their larger audience. You can see my efforts at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-thornton.

Mike Lukovich - GoComics



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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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