Sunday, December 27, 2009

Understanding COBRA and "Mini-COBRA"

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the economic stimulus legislation) provides assistance with premiums to help involuntarily unemployed workers purchase their former employer's COBRA or other continuation coverage. Originally, the act provided nine months of premium assistance for people laid off between September 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009. However, emergency legislation that President Obama signed into law on December 19, 2009, has extended this assistance: People can now get assistance paying for their COBRA premiums for up to 15 months if they were laid off between September 1, 2008, and February 28, 2010. Furthermore, in 2010, Congress may consider passing legislation that assists people who are laid off later than February as part of the anticipated jobs bill.

Currently, under the act and its extension, for up to 15 months, eligible unemployed workers will need to pay only 35 percent of their total COBRA premiums to continue the health coverage that they had through their jobs, and the federal government will reimburse employers or health plans for the remaining 65 percent of premiums. People are eligible for premium assistance if they were (or are) laid off between September 1, 2008, and February 28, 2010; have annual income during the tax year that does not exceed $145,000 for individuals and $290,000 for families; have a right to continued health coverage under COBRA or another law; and are not eligible for coverage under another group plan (such as through a spouse’s employer) or for Medicare. People with adjusted gross incomes between $125,000 and $145,000 (or between $250,000 and $290,000 for joint filers) will need to repay a portion of the assistance that they receive, while people with incomes below $125,000 for single filers and below $250,000 for joint filers are eligible for full assistance with no repayment.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Senate Approves Unemployment, COBRA Extensions

The U.S. Senate, on an 88-10 vote, today approved the 2010 defense appropriations bills which also includes the temporary extension of jobless benefits and a government subsidy for COBRA health insurance premiums.

President Barack Obama, who supports the legislation, must now sign the law for the aid to the unemployed to take effect.

The much-awaited vote, which had been held up because of the debate over the health care package, came in a rare Saturday session for the Senate at about 5:30 a.m. today.

If signed by the President, the bill would continue several extensions of unemployment benefits through Feb. 28. An extra $25 a week payment approved by Congress earlier this year in the economic stimulus package also will be extended two months.

In addition, the bill  extend a 65% government subsidy on COBRA health insurance premiums from the current nine months to 15 months. People who get laid off over the next two months who have COBRA coverage through their companies also will be eligible for the subsidy.

Both the unemployment extension and COBRA subsidy were due to expire Dec. 31, which would have cut benefits to millions of jobless workers. Already thousands of people have lost the COBRA subsidy after exhausting the current nine months of benefits in November.  They will now be able to get the subsidy for six more months.

Friday, December 18, 2009

US Senate Will Pass Unemployment Extension With Cloture... Again.

Early Friday morning (around 1:30am) the Senate passed a cloture vote 63-33 to limit debate on the Defense Department spending bill, which has attached to it unemployment benefits extensions in the form of unemployment insurance and health insurance benefits. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill Saturday morning at 7:30am. This should ensure that the unemployment benefits extension deadline glitch is fixed, coupled with a short two-month extension for vital programs before Congress leaves for the year (assuming President Obama signs the bill into law in short order, for which there is no reason to suspect he will not).

This legislation is as good as passed and for those who find themselves unemployed, this news is welcomed and appreciated.  More information will be posted after the final passage. 

State of Tennessee Announces Modest Drop In Unemployment

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley announced today Tennessee’s unemployment rate for November was 10.3 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from the October rate of 10.5 percent.

“As the year ends, we’re seeing evidence the economy is bottoming out and beginning to show some modest employment growth, which is encouraging news,” reported Labor Commissioner James Neeley.

The November rate a year ago was 7.2 percent. The national unemployment rate for November 2009 was 10.0 percent, down from the October rate of 10.2 percent.

Major Changes in Estimated Nonagricultural Employment

October 2009 to November 2009
According to the Business Survey, 7,300 job gains occurred in retail trade; 1,800 in professional and business services; and 1,300 in health care and social assistance. Major employment decreases occurred in durable goods manufacturing, down by 1,800; arts, entertainment and recreation declined by 1,300; and mining and construction declined by 1,000 jobs.

Major Changes in Estimated Nonagricultural Employment
November 2008 to November 2009 Year-over-year increases occurred in health care and social assistance, up by 7,500; federal government increased 1,500; and local government educational services gained 1,100. Manufacturing decreased by 29,800 jobs; mining and construction lost 28,200; and trade, transportation and utilities declined by 23,300.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Resources For Managing Your Finances While Unemployed

The loss of a job can drain you both emotionally and financially. Below you will find resources gathered by the Washington Department of Financial Institutions to help you manage debt, avoid foreclosure, cut expenses, and more.  This is an area of the blog which may be expanded as more resources are recognized.

Credit and Debt Help

Paying off or keeping up with large amounts of debt can be difficult when you are unemployed. Learn more about your rights and what to do if you are over your head in debt.

How to Deal With Creditors

Dealing with creditors can be difficult and stressful, especially after
the loss of a job.

Choosing a Credit Counselor

Reputable credit counselors can advise you on managing debt and help you

Debt Consolidation

Advantages and disadvantages of debt consolidation.

What To Do If You’re Knee Deep in Debt

If you are overwhelmed by debt, learn about some of the options
available to you.

Repairing Bad Credit

Credit cannot be repaired overnight. Learn how to help yourself and how
to spot scams.

Local Credit Counselors

Counseling Northwest

CCNW serves Western Washington.

Credit Counseling Services of Inland NW

CCCS serves the Spokane Area.

Credit Counseling
Service of Tri-Cities

Serves the Tri-Cities area.

Credit Counseling
Service of Yakima

Serves the Yakima Valley area.

Avoiding Fraud and Scams

Fraudsters specifically target the unemployed. Avoid becoming a victim of a scam or fraud by learning about the latest scams.

Web Scam That Targets the Unemployed

Information about a scam targeting the local unemployed.

Financial Fraud Alerts

Local financial fraud alerts from the Department of Financial

Consumer Alerts

Local consumer alerts from the Washington Office of the Attorney

Alerts from BBB

Alerts from the local Better Business Bureau.

Trouble Paying Your Mortgage - Avoiding Foreclosure

Foreclosure is a stressful situation for those who must go through it. If you
are having trouble making your monthly mortgage payment, seek help right away.

Foreclosure & Homeownership Counseling

Free counseling sponsored by the State of Washington.

Information about Foreclosure

Information about foreclosure and possible alternatives.

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams

Information about foreclosure rescue scams and what to look for.

Loan Modification Services - Caution

Be cautious of someone offering to help modify the terms of your home

Cutting Expenses

One of the first things you need to do when you lose a job is cut spending.
Find creative ways to cut costs on utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.

66 Ways to Save Money

66 ways you can start saving money today!

Saving Money on Groceries

Tips on how to save money when grocery shopping.

Save on Energy Costs

Tips on how to save on your energy bill.

Save Money on Your Utilities

Tips on how to save on your utility bills.

Save Money at The Gas Pump

How to save on gas.

Save Money on Entertainment

Ideas on how to save money on entertainment.

Save Money on Phone, Internet, TV

Tips on how to save money.

More Resources and Tips

Resources and tips on how to save money.


Budgeting and Managing Money

Managing money while unemployed can be difficult. Learn more about managing
money during tough times and how to set up a tight budget.

Tips for Managing Your Money

Tips on how to manage money during tough economic times.

Household Budget

Interactive budgeting worksheet.

Budget Building

Tips on how to build a tight budget from Today Show contributor, Jean

On A Tight Budget

You can save money - even on tight budgets.

Retirement Accounts and Health Care Coverage

Many unemployed workers worry about their retirement and insurance coverage.
Learn more from what happens to your retirement and insurance coverage after a
job loss.
WA Department of
Retirement Systems

The Department of Retirement Systems administers retirement benefits for
public employees throughout Washington.

Job Dislocation - Making Smart Financial Choices

Information about making smart financial choices after a job loss.

Retirement and Health Care Coverage

Q&A’s about retirement and health care coverage for dislocated workers.

Protect Your
Health Coverage and Retirement Benefits

Helpful information about health care coverage and retirement benefits.

Employer's Bankruptcy - How Will It Affect Your Employee Benefits?

Fact sheet  on how an employer’s bankruptcy will affect your benefits.

Protecting Pension and Health Care Benefits After Job Loss

Tips on protecting your pension and health care benefits after a job


The loss of a job can create new tax issues. Learn more about filing taxes while unemployed.

Financially Distressed Taxpayers

The IRS recently announced new steps to help financially distressed

Impact Of Job Loss

The loss of a job may create new tax issues for you. Learn more from the

Unemployment Compensation

Information from the IRS about unemployment compensation.

VITA Program: Free Tax Help

Help to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own tax

Earned Income Tax Credit

The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate

Taxpayer Rights

Your rights as a taxpayer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Omnibus 2/2 Clears House of Representatives - Next Step Senate Then President

This afternoon, the U.S. House approved the final version of a defense appropriations bill (HR 3326) that included a $13 billion provision to extend by two months the deadline to file for both jobless benefits and the COBRA health coverage subsidy. The legislation would protect roughly three million people scheduled to exhaust their insurance early next year. The Senate is expected to pass their version in the next week.

But that's not all. House leaders are also planning to vote on a $154 billion job creation package. A portion ($79 million) would extend unemployment benefits and the COBRA subsidy by an additional six months while also continuing to temporarily pay a higher share of all Medicaid costs incurred by state governments. Using leftover Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money, the bill would also fund $48 million worth of infrastructure spending and $27 billion worth of flexible state aid.

If the latter measure passes, it could seriously help state lawmakers scrambling to plug the looming FY 2011 budget gap while simultaneously spurring some much-needed infrastructure improvements. The Senate could take up the legislation after the holiday recess. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has called it "a priority in January."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

U.S. House of Representatives Seeks To Pass Omnibus 2/2 This Wednesday

The bill will include money for ready-to-go highway construction projects and aid to cash-strapped states so they will not have to lay off teachers, police and other public-sector employee, Hoyer said at his weekly news conference.

The $75 billion cost will be covered by money left over from the government's $700 billion bank bailout, Hoyer said.

The House also plans to extend several federal safety-net programs, such as unemployment insurance and food stamps, to help those struggling with the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, Hoyer said.

The House could pass both measures as early as Wednesday, a Democratic aide said.

The jobs measures that Democrats hope to pass in the crush of year-end legislation are significantly scaled back from what they had discussed earlier, tempered by concerns over spending and how measures will play in the Senate.

Though the economy has begun to recover, voter anxiety remains high and the unemployment rate is expected to stay stubbornly high into next year.

President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats hope to bring down the 10 percent unemployment rate before the November 2010 congressional elections, but do not want to give further ammunition to Republicans who say spending is out of control.

They also must contend with the Senate, which is occupied with an overhaul of the country's health-care system.


Democrats aim to extend unemployment benefits by two months, Hoyer said, rather than the six months that were discussed last week. Health-care subsidies for the jobless will get a two-month extension, and food-stamp programs will get an infusion of cash, he said.

Those extensions will be combined with a $630 billion military-spending bill. Considered must-pass legislation, the defense bill could be signed into law by Obama next week.

The money for "shovel ready" infrastructure projects and for cash-strapped states will come up for a vote separately, and the Senate is not expected to take it up until January.

Though bailed-out banks will return $185 billion to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Congress will only be able to use roughly $75 billion of that money due to complex budgeting rules, Hoyer said.

"It's in the neighborhood of $75 billion, less than $75 billion. That, as you know, is the TARP money that is available," Hoyer explained.

That's a much smaller figure than the $200 billion that House Democrats mentioned last week.

Hoyer did not mention two job-creating approaches backed by Obama: boosting lending to small businesses, and creating incentives to make buildings more energy efficient.

Lawmakers also removed roughly $5 billion for conservation programs from the jobs package, a Democratic aide said.

Both the state aid and the infrastructure spending would continue programs started in the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February. Many states warn that their budgets will "fall off a cliff" when the money from that package runs out.

Monday, December 14, 2009

EDD To Unemployed In California - "Checks Are In The Mail"

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The state Employment Development Department said by Tuesday it would mail new unemployment benefit checks for 121,000 jobless Californians who had exhausted their benefits.

They've been granted a new 14-week benefit extension.

But the new checks have been delayed for more than a month because of the department's antique computer system.

Now, the EDD said it has straightened out the paperwork problems and those checks will be in the mail by the end of business on Tuesday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

IMPORTANT WARNING - A Scam Targets Unemployed Ohioans -

When I first came across this story I was outraged. Persons who are unemployed are already strapped for cash and stressed enough. Mostly, I only post the story and avoid personal opinion. However, this story strikes a nerve with me. I sincerely wish the individuals who are behind this scam face severe federal criminal prosecution.

Please, this is important -Guard your personal information very closely and report suspicious activity such as this or unemployment fraud to the appropriate authorities.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and Attorney General Richard Cordray’s office have received widespread reports of a national scheme targeting recipients of unemployment compensation benefits in Ohio. Those targeted receive fraudulent text messages on their cell phones, claiming to be from state unemployment agencies.

The fraudulent messages inform recipients that their unemployment benefits have been suspended and to call the provided phone number to reactivate. When recipients call, they are asked for personal information, including debit card numbers and personal identification numbers (PIN). At that point, unemployment benefits deposited on the debit card are accessed and withdrawn by the scam artist.

“We want to make all unemployment recipients in Ohio aware of this very real threat,” said ODJFS Director Douglas Lumpkin. “ODJFS representatives will never ask for claimants’ debit card information or their PIN numbers. Claimants should not give this information out over the phone.”

According to complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Office, several additional versions of this scam are currently circulating with similar messages that allege account problems with various credit cards issued by U.S. Bank. Recipients are encouraged to call the number and provide personal information.

Attorney General Cordray strongly urges Ohioans to disregard the message and not provide any personal information.

“This is a prime example of how a scam can mutate and adapt to changing times and trends,” Cordray said. “With the use of text messaging on the rise, it is no surprise that scammers have manipulated the system to target unsuspecting individuals. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of remaining vigilant and exercising extreme caution with personal information. In this case, disregard the message. Do not provide any personal information.”

ODJFS is working with its debit card provider, U.S. Bank, to further protect, inform and educate its customers. Anyone who receives one of these fraudulent messages should not respond. Anyone who suspects funds have been inappropriately accessed should call the customer service number provided on the back of their U.S. Bank debit card: (866) 276-5114.

In response to the many complaints received by ODJFS and the Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Bank has issued the following statement: “The safety and security of customers’ accounts and information is a top priority of U.S. Bank. We would never ask a customer to place their personal information in jeopardy by contacting them and asking them to divulge it over the phone, via e-mail or text messages. If customers have any questions or see suspicious activity on their account, they should contact the customer service number on the back of their cards.”

Cordray also urges Ohioans who have become victims of this scam or any other phishing scam to immediately report the incident to local police and contact his office at or by calling (800) 282-0515.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Omnibus Bill 1/2 Clears House - Next Week House & Senate Expected To Move Forward On Remaining Domestic Issues, Including Unemployment Insurance Extensions.

The Senate will consider the package over the weekend, because Republicans are blocking a consent agreement to complete the measure early next week.

"If cloture needs to be invoked, then the Senate will need to be in session this weekend for a Saturday vote and a Sunday vote," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. While Reid did not bring up the matter and allow the GOP to object, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made clear that would be the end result.

"We expect to be here this weekend, and look forward to it," McConnell said.

Reid argued the package would pass regardless, with the Senate either staying in to let the cloture clock run over the weekend or agreeing to skip those steps and vote Monday. Senate aides said he would likely file cloture Thursday on the omnibus, setting up a Saturday cloture vote and a Sunday vote on passage.

The package includes six fiscal 2010 spending bills, including the $67.9 billion Transportation-HUD bill, the $64.4 Commerce-Justice-Science bill, the $24.2 billion Financial Services bill, the $163.6 billion Labor-HHS bill, the $78 billion Military Construction-VA bill, and the $48.7 billion State-Foreign Operations bill.

The House and Senate are pushing to clear a second spending package before the end of next week, when the current funding extension expires. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House will act early next week on the fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill, with an increase to the statutory debt ceiling and a jobs package attached.

Pelosi indicated that bill will likely be the vehicle to extend unemployment insurance, and COBRA health and food stamp benefits, tax breaks for small businesses -- as well as more federal money to states and localities to try to avoid public employee layoffs. She said there could be an infrastructure component attached as well.

House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said Republicans would not support the Defense package if it included extraneous provisions. He also blasted the $446.8 billion bill for including a 14 percent increase for domestic programs, while military construction and veterans funding are held to a 5 percent boost.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wisc., countered that most of the increases are for veterans, war costs, infrastructure and health care. During Republican control, he added, omnibus packages were common and domestic programs were ignored.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CONFIRMED: House Vote For Omnibus Bill To Extend Benefits Scheduled This Thursday

The House is expected to take up the first half of a two-part omnibus package this week, which could hitch a ride on the final version of the fiscal 2010 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill, senior House Democratic and Republican aides said Monday.

The package is expected to include five other appropriations bills which have not yet been enacted, excluding the fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill, which will be the focus of the second part of the omnibus.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Monday that extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits could go in either package.

Conferees are expected to meet Tuesday on Transportation-HUD, the aides said, and the package could be voted on by the House Thursday.

There are three bills, not including Defense, that have passed both the House and Senate and are waiting to be reconciled by conferees: the fiscal 2010 Military Construction-VA bill, the fiscal 2010 Transportation-HUD bill, and the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science bill.

To date, only five of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been signed into law by President Obama.

A Republican aide suggested the Transportation-HUD bill will likely be the vehicle because it would allow House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., to chair the conference committee, which would give the House a little leverage over the Senate. A Democratic aide would not confirm what the vehicle would be.

If approved by the House, the omnibus would be taken up by the Senate, which could interrupt its healthcare debate because it does not need unanimous consent to consider a conference report.

However, Senate Democratic leaders may need 60 votes to cut off debate on the package and possibly 60 votes to waive a Senate rule that prohibits including items in conference reports that were not in either the Senate or House versions of the bill.

Thirty-five Republican senators, led by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sent a letter to Reid warning that if any provisions making changes that support abortion rights are included in the omnibus, the package will face stiff resistance.

"We want to assure you that we are prepared to take full advantage of our rights under Senate rules" to prevent enactment of the abortion-related provisions, the letter states.

One example is a provision in the Financial Services Appropriations bills passed by the House and Senate, which includes the District of Columbia budget, which would eliminate a prohibition on use of local tax funds for abortion, a move opposed by Republicans.

The House is expected to take up the second part of the omnibus next week, which would consist of the fiscal 2010 Defense Appropriations bill, as well as possibly an increase in the debt limit, jobs creation legislation and other items.

A Republican aide said the second package will not likely be conferenced but instead be ping-ponged between the House and Senate, where one house sends a take-it-or-leave-it package to the other. If the package is changed, it would need to go back to the other house for its approval.

The current continuing resolution funding federal programs not covered by enacted appropriations bill expires Dec. 18. The House could be out of session after that week, which would force the Senate to make the first volley.

It remains unclear whether the House will be in session or not after Dec. 18, as it waits to see if the Senate passes healthcare legislation and whether quick action can be taken to reconcile the different versions and pass the final product.

The ping-pong strategy eliminates motions to recommit the bill, which would otherwise offer the minority a chance to change the package.

Hoyer Monday downplayed Republican criticism that using Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to pay for a jobs bill was trading possible debt for definite debt.
"TARP was designed to try to stabilize and build the economy. We're still trying to accomplish that purpose," said Hoyer.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana said Monday that, "A year later, now [TARP's] going to morph into some sort of a slush fund [for] the next wish list of liberal spending priorities disguised as some sort of stimulus bill."

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said he is circulating a letter to be delivered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., -- already signed by Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., Pence, and other Republicans -- "demanding that we not raid TARP funds -- that the statute that was passed 13 months ago, roughly, is adhered to."

Hensarling, the lone congressional Republican on the oversight panel for the TARP program, also said he has introduced legislation to ensure the TARP program does not go beyond Dec. 31. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner must decide before the end of the year if he intends to extend the TARP program through October.

Unemployment Benefits Running Out - KXAN Austin, Texas

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Information For Michigan Residents On The Latest Unemployment Extension

In the link below, Michigan workers will find information about two new Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) extensions passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on Nov. 6, 2009.

Here is the official document from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency:

Monday, December 07, 2009

Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New York and Washington Urged Congress To Action To Extend Unemployment Benefits Today

State labor officials and worker advocates on Monday appealed for quick Congressional action to extend emergency unemployment benefits and to renew health insurance subsidies for the long-term jobless.

Prolonged unemployment insurance, passed this year in the stimulus act, expires this month, and officials estimate that more than one million workers will see benefits end in January if Congress does not act.

The health subsidies, under which the federal government pays 65 percent of insurance costs under Cobra for up to nine months, have already expired and are not available to the newly unemployed, who will have to pay family premiums averaging $1,100 if they want to keep their existing health plans.

Renewal this month of both forms of aid is “a moral imperative,” Sandi Vito, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, said at a news conference here on Monday. Ms. Vito, who was joined by senior labor officials from seven other states, said the extensions were needed “through at least the end of 2010 as a bridge for people.”

Congressional aides said in interviews that renewing the aid programs has bipartisan support.

Democratic Congressional leaders are considering adding these safety net measures to a final spending bill for government operations in the current fiscal year, which they plan to pass before the end of the month. But the immediate prospects were uncertain, particularly in the Senate, which is dealing with health reform and where there is disagreement over how long any emergency extensions should last.
Another year of extended benefits and aid for health insurance, including related tax breaks and a $25 a week addition to benefits that Congress provided this year, would cost about $100 billion, officials estimate.

The state officials and private advocates said on Monday that any delay in renewal would have disastrous effects on people who are on the edge of foreclosure or eviction. Also, if states have to send letters to recipients saying aid is ending and then later must reinstate benefits, “it’s going to be a devastating administrative burden,” said David Socolow, New Jersey’s commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, and would cause delays for applicants.
While national unemployment declined slightly last week, to 10 percent, more than 15 million workers remained unemployed in October and 36 percent of them were jobless more than six months — the highest level of so-called long-term unemployed since data collection started in the late 1940s.

Raj Chetty, an economist at Harvard University, said that with so many jobless for so long, the traditional concerns that prolonged benefits would reduce incentives to work were less germane.

“In this economy people will take almost any work they can get, and the prospect of another 13 weeks of benefits isn’t going to alter that significantly,” he said. “People have depleted their savings and exhausted the help of relatives.”
So with prolonged aid, Professor Chetty added, “You are in effect helping them to feed their kids.”

Douglas Holmes, president of UWC, which represents businesses on unemployment insurance and compensation issues, said his group was “not opposed to some further extension,” but cautioned against prolonging benefits too long or adding tax burdens on employers, who already face increases in state unemployment taxes.
The first 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, which average just over $300 a week, are paid by the states with money collected from employers. This year, as part of the stimulus act, Congress agreed to pay for an extra 34 to 53 weeks, depending on a state’s jobless rate. Then, in November, as large numbers started to exhaust that aid, Congress added another 14 to 20 weeks, bringing the potential total to 99 weeks in many states.

But without Congressional action, the extra federal aid will quickly wind down. People who lost their jobs after July 1 of this year, for example, would receive no federally paid extensions once their customary six months of state aid runs out. The extensions are provided in segments and those who are already receiving help in one stage, often awarded for 13 weeks, would finish that term but not receive additional weeks of aid they may have expected.

In January alone, without a renewal, benefits would halt for more than one million unemployed people, according to projections by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group and a co-sponsor of Monday’s press conference, based on data received from the states.

Ms. Vito, the Pennsylvania official, said her office had started receiving desperate calls from people whose health subsidies had just ended and who were unable to pay the full premiums themselves. Under federal Cobra provisions, a laid-off worker can retain his or her previous health insurance for up to 18 months by paying the full cost.

But many, without work, cannot afford the premiums. The federal government this year has paid 65 percent of the cost for up to nine months. Large numbers who started receiving the subsidy this year have used up their time, and since Dec. 1, the aid has not been available for the newly unemployed.
For the average worker with a family plan, the premiums required under Cobra add up to nearly as much as unemployment benefits, according to Families USA, a group advocating health care reform.

Also participating in Monday’s call for action were officials of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the National Women’s Law Center. State officials from Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New York and Washington joined in the plea for Congress to act.

Full Link at:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Don Ingram - Tennessee Department of Labor Explains Reasons Benefits Are Delayed.

This is a clip from News Channel 5 with Don Ingram, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Admin, explaining the cause for delay about the latest unemployment extension and answering call in questions about the matter. Although each state is having to deal with different circumstances, the common reason for the delays are all related to the process of implementation and the high amounts of claims the departments are having to process. Mr. Ingram explains that claims are up 120% and at one point in the video states that the department simply was not designed to handle the number of claims which are being received.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Jim McDermott Introduces Legislation To Extend Jobless Benefits and Reauthorize ARRA.

Many are wondering what Congress will do about the need for a bill to rectify the glitch in the previous unemployment extension bill passed last month. The deadline for eligibility according to the bill was December 31, 2009 - this meant that anyone who had not yet exhausted their benefits would not be eligible to receive the additional 14 week extension. It also meant that those who had exhausted their benefits and were receiving the 14 week extension would not logically have been able to file for the additional 6 weeks if they were living in a high unemployment state. (The bill was signed into law with fewer than 14 weeks left in the year.)

On Wednesday, House Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced bill HR 4183, which would fix the glitch. The bill would push the deadline back from 12/31/09 until March 31, 2011. This would ensure that millions of unemployed Americans who would have been given the short end of the stick will be eligible for the additional 14-week tier of extensions nationally, and the 6-week tier on top of that in high unemployment states.

This $100 billion bill could be incorporated into the jobs bill currently being assembled, which would then total $300 billion and include state aid, SBA loans, expanding business loans, a work-share program and infrastructure spending.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tennessee Department of Labor Explains Preliminary Details

The following information is a post written by Mr. John Partlow, Tennessee Department of Labor. Hopefully, this information gives Tennesseans an idea of what to expect in the coming weeks regarding the latest unemployment extension signed into law on November 6th, 2009 by President Barack Obama.

Here is the information he has provided:

"Like we posted on our website, the letters are scheduled to go out December 7th and 8th. The letters will go out only to those who have exhausted all of their entitlement and aren’t drawing anymore. The letters will instruct you to go to our website on December 11 to file the application. Those that are currently receiving unemployment should transition from EB into EUC Tier 3 or from EUC Tier 2 into EUC Tier 3, depending upon what they are currently receiving.

Hopefully, the checks will start to be mailed the following week after Friday, December 11. Once I know more about the specific day, I will let you know. There is a massive check run on Sunday night and Monday night for TUC payments and then a massive check run on Tuesday night for EUC Tier 1 and 2 payments, then a check run on Wednesday night for EB, so most likely, the EUC Tier 3 and 4 checks will be a Thursday night check run.

So, more than likely, the first checks for EUC Tier 3 will be issued on December 17.

This means that if you applied on December 11, you should be issued lump sum payment that covers the weeks of:

and possibly 12-12

Then you would start certifying weekly. I believe that the day we are going to assign for EUC Tier 3 and 4 to certify will be Thursday. Its my understanding that you will be able to certify through TIPS or online. The days for certifications will be:

Sundays – Regular TUC if your SSN ends in an even number
Mondays – Regular TUC if your SSN ends in an odd number
Tuesdays – EUC Tiers 1 & 2
Wedensdays – EB
Thursdays – EUC Tiers 3 & 4 and makeup day for everyone

If you haven’t worked since you last certified for a week of benefits, your claim should quickly be approved. If you have worked somewhere, we will have to verify the separation with your most recent employer before you are approved. Also, if you aren’t able and available for work or have some other individual circumstance that prevents you from working, that must be adjudicated as well before you can receive these benefits.

The work search requirement is not the same as EB. The tangible work searches are only for those receiving EB. EUC Tiers 3 & 4 go back to the state policy of work searches where you must register for work through the career centers (which everyone, I am sure, is already registered) and seek work using your customary means.

I hope this helps everyone understand what to expect in the next week or so."

Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee All On the Same System?

An antiquated computer system is slowing payments to South Carolina's jobless and officials say it will take weeks to bring the system up to speed.

The Greenville News reported Sunday that the 23-year-old computer system at the Employment Security Commission isn't set up to allow payments to jobless workers who have been unemployed for more than 79 weeks.

ESC assistant deputy executive director Jimmy Jones said the 23-year-old system was not designed to make payments easily and has to be programmed to allow the payments. Jones said that could take at least two weeks.

"It could be longer," Jones said. But the agency can't go outside to get experts to work on the system because it is so old and in-house staffers understand how it works, he said.

Asked if the agency could use experts from places like Clemson University or the University of South Carolina, Jones said, "We really can't utilize people like that."

The issue of the agency's computer system initially came up in January when Gov. Mark Sanford and the state Department of Commerce wanted information about unemployment claims and jobs that the ESC said its computers couldn't produce without significant programming that could take up to six months to complete.

Jones said the agency sent officials to Virginia to check out their computer system because it was one that provided information similar to what Sanford was requesting. But the real problem was the governor requested data ESC didn't compile and track.

Currently, South Carolina is a member of a four-state consortium that is working to determine the feasibility of designing a system that could be used by all four states, with tweaking for each state's individual unemployment system programs, he said.

The feasibility study, expected to take 18 months to two years, will kick off next month and be funded with a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Once the study is completed, the consortium of the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee will seek another grant to build the system, he said. That could easily be in the range of $50 million and also would be funded by the Labor Department.

Kentucky now accepting claims for extended unemployment benefits.

The State of Kentucky is now accepting claims for the latest extension of unemployment benefits. The extension, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Nov. 6, provides up to 14 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers who have used up all their benefits.

Eligible claimants can file online at

The state said in a news release that the nearly 10,000 Kentuckians who have used all 79 weeks of unemployment benefits may be eligible for payments retroactive to Nov. 8. A link will be available in the online application by the end of this week to allow requests for retroactive payments.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

USDOL Operating Instructions for November Extension

Here is the guidance that the USDOL has sent to the states regarding how EUC Tiers 3(III) and 4(IV) work. The first link was their initial guidance published on November 13th. The second link had some changes in their November 13th guidance with some additional instructions.

The above links are the definitive word from the USDOL on how the extensions must be handled and who is eligible.  Although this information was provided to the State of Tennessee the information is applicable for all states.