Unemployment to be extended beyond 99 weeks? A Tier 5 may be coming . . .

September 18, 2010

On August 4, 2010, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the Americans Want to Work Act. This legislation would create an additional tier (Tier 5) of unemployment benefits for those (known as the 99ers) who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

If passed The Americans Want to Work Act will provide 20 additional weeks of unemployment insurance for individuals in states with an unemployment rate of 7.5% or higher. This new Tier 5 would benefit people who have exhausted their weeks of all available benefits. In high unemployment states such as Massachusetts the limit is 99 weeks. In order to receive this tier, individuals would still need to meet regular unemployment insurance law requirements.

In a strong economy, state governments provide layoff victims 26 weeks of benefits. In normal recessions, states and the federal government partner to provide an additional 20 weeks. To fight the worst recession since the Great Depression, Congress in 2008 and 2009 passed several measures to provide up to 53 additional weeks (for a total of 99 weeks) of federally-funded benefits, broken into four “tiers.”

The National Employment Law Project applauded Stabenow’s bill. “NELP commends Senator Stabenow and her co-sponsors of the Americans Want to Work Act both for being champions of those hardest hit by the recession, but also for keeping the focus on the most important thing — getting those who have exhausted their benefits back to work,” said NELP’s Judy Conti in a statement to HuffPost. “We need to support these workers and their families both in their efforts to stay afloat while unemployed through no fault of their own, but equally importantly, in their efforts to find work and rebuild their lives after the devastation of such prolonged unemployment.”

The best course of action to help get Tier 5 unemployment benefits passed is to contact your elected officials and ask them to support a long term extension of unemployment benefits.


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