Thursday, February 25, 2010

Republicans Filibuster An Unemployment Benefits Extension Thursday Night

Retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) late Thursday launched a one-man crusade to block an extension of unemployment and COBRA insurance benefits, vowing to allow the benefit programs to expire Sunday unless Democrats agreed to pay for them with unused stimulus funds.

Bunning’s quixotic pursuit of deficit offsets at the potential expense of payments to unemployed or uninsured citizens enraged Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other Democrats, who vowed to keep the chamber in session until Bunning relents or collapses.

A senior Democratic leadership aide said Durbin would ask for a unanimous consent to pass the extensions without Bunning’s payment scheme every half hour for the foreseeable future. “We’re going to keep doing it until we break him,” the aide said.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New York Governor David Patterson Adds His Voice To The Cause Of Extending Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Below is a press release to Congress from NY Governor, David Patterson.

"As we in government work to rebuild a broken economy, we must continue to protect those most affected by this catastrophic downturn: the unemployed. Many of our neighbors without jobs have come to rely on the unemployment insurance benefits that provide them with the means to make their mortgage payments, buy groceries or simply make ends meet. However, if Congress does not act quickly, this much-needed resource will expire, leaving many without the support they need to weather this storm.

"I strongly urge Congress to extend the unemployment insurance benefits beyond the February 28 deadline through the end of this year. Without this extension, approximately 575,000 New Yorkers will see an end to their benefits. With it, we will help to ensure the economic security of those who have already made sacrifices, scaled down spending and gone without."

More information found at the official press release source:

Band-Aid Legislation May Be Needed For Any Unemployment Extension - Republicans Oppose Extending Benefits Through End Of Year...

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pressing to extend unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless through December as he and Republicans try to clear leftover Senate business.

Reid also hopes to keep helping cash-strapped states with their Medicaid budgets, he said Tuesday on the Senate floor. Taken together, these proposals would cost in the range of $100 billion.

The Nevada Democrat is in talks with GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky over what to include in catchall legislation to help the long-term unemployed, extend several expired tax breaks and prevent doctors from suffering a big cut in their Medicare reimbursements.

The measure would cost more than the jobs bill the Senate is scheduled to approve on Wednesday. It mostly clears up business left unfinished because of last year's health care debate.

There is nothing new in the emerging measure to spur job growth. Instead, it would extend provisions that senators in both parties say have generally been helpful to the economy.

Facing a Feb. 28 deadline, Reid hopes to pass two measures, one as soon as possible. The first includes a 30-day extension of several of soon-to-expire provisions such as jobless aid, parts of the Patriot Act and prevention of cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.

Reid and McConnell were discussing the parameters of the second – a broader, longer-term measure – in a private conversation on the Senate floor. A top Reid aide could be overheard suggesting a full-year extension of unemployment insurance and a 65 percent health insurance subsidy for the unemployed through the federal COBRA program.

There is no agreement on how to proceed on the broader measure, said Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who said Republicans are concerned about the high cost of the aid to the unemployed. An earlier bipartisan proposal would have extended the aid through May 31 instead of through the end of the year as proposed by Reid.

Kyl added that the proposal to give more Medicaid help to the states took Republicans by surprise. The nation's governors are lobbying strongly for the help.

The most costly piece of the measure would continue to provide additional weeks of benefits to jobless people whose unemployment insurance would otherwise expire. They have been extended several times by Congress since June 2008. The core benefit is 26 weeks, with up to 20 additional weeks in states with high unemployment.

The Reid aide also proposed extending for another six months a provision of last year's economic stimulus bill in which the federal government pays a higher share of costs for the state-federal Medicaid health care program for the poor and unemployed. The Medicaid help mirrors an Obama administration proposal to give states about $25 billion to help with their Medicaid budgets.

Reid dropped the help for the unemployed from the jobs bill. Republicans were unhappy Reid had also discarded an extension of more than 40 expired tax breaks they wanted in the bill. A trimmed-down version of the jobs bill advanced on a bipartisan 62-30 vote Monday to end a GOP filibuster.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Job Bill Clears Hurdle in U.S. Senate With Republican Support

A $15 billion jobs bill cleared a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate yesterday after a handful of Republicans, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts, broke with their party leaders to help advance the Democratic measure.

The vote that allows the measure to proceed was 62-30, with 60 needed to overcome Republican stalling tactics. Most Republicans opposed the bill after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scaled back an $85 billion jobs-related measure that had been crafted in committee by a group of Democrats and Republicans.

Reid said the Senate will take a final vote on the stripped-down bill “in a day or so.”

Brown, in just his third vote since being seated earlier this month, said that while the bill was “not perfect” he “came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside and to do everything in my power to create jobs for Massachusetts families.”

Also siding with Democrats were Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Christopher Bond of Missouri and George Voinovich of Ohio. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the sole Democrat to vote against advancing the bill.

Democrats, who lost their 60-vote supermajority with Brown’s surprise win in a special election last month, needed support from at least two Republicans in yesterday’s vote because New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg is being treated for stomach cancer.

Obama ‘Grateful’

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he was “grateful to the Democratic and Republican senators who voted to support” the bill’s provisions.

“The American people want to see Washington put aside partisan differences and make progress on jobs” and with yesterday’s vote “the Senate took one important step forward in doing that,” Obama said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said lawmakers there may pass the Senate plan without any changes.

The measure’s centerpiece is a $13 billion plan to fight joblessness by offering companies a one-year holiday from paying a 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax for each worker they hire who has been jobless for at least 60 days. The plan would save or create as many as 234,000 jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The plan would spend $2 billion to aid state governments by expanding subsidies for bonds used to finance construction projects, give small businesses more power to write off expenses and transfer $19.5 billion in tax revenue into the government’s highway trust fund.

Republican Demand

Republican leaders had demanded a chance to restore provisions Reid dropped earlier this month, including a package of business-related tax cuts. Reid’s decision amounted to a bet that at least a few Republicans wouldn’t vote against his stripped-down bill in an election year when the economy is at the top of the list of voters’ concerns.

The provisions eliminated by Reid included an extension in unemployment benefits, a package of individual and business tax cuts worth $31 billion, and provisions preventing looming cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. Reid said lawmakers would take up those items later.

The House approved a jobs bill in December costing more than $150 billion. It would spend $53 billion to extend unemployment benefits, $24 billion to help states to pay their Medicaid bills, $48 billion for infrastructure and $26 billion to shore up funding for public service jobs.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Congress Leaving Unemployment Benefits Extension To The Last Minute

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is paring back a jobs bill proposal unveiled earlier on Thursday by the Senate Finance Committee, dropping an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers. The Senate is taking a break next week, so that stuff will have to wait until the end of the month -- the last moment before the previous extension runs out.

"State agencies are going to start sending out letters next week letting people know that their benefits are going to expire," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project.

So, even though it's entirely likely that Congress will pass an extension before Feb. 28 -- barring another major blizzard -- people will nevertheless receive letters telling them they're not eligible for the next "tier" of benefits.

Last year's stimulus bill provided up to 53 additional weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits (broken into several tiers) and a 65 percent subsidy of COBRA health insurance. When those provisions expired at the end of December, Congress scrambled to extend them another three months. If they're allowed to expire at the end of the month, 1.2 million people will exhaust their unemployment benefits in March.

"I think it's disturbing because there are four tiers of emergency unemployment compensation benefits, and if you're on a given tier, you only have a few weeks if the program isn't extended... Individuals could look at running out of benefits in a week or several weeks," said Rich Hobbie, director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

Aside from the anxiety the situation creates for the unemployed, Hobbie said it's a huge administrative burden for state agencies. Norm Isotalo, spokesman for the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, said Congress's dithering does indeed make work for his office.

"February 28 is rapidly approaching and we still don't have any certainty if the ending date is going to be extended, so the agency is preparing to wind down the payments of extended federally-funded unemployment benefits," Isolato told HuffPost. "But on the other hand, we have to be ready to pull the plug on these wind-down efforts if Congress acts. It could be a lot of wind-down work that all may go for naught if Congress extends the deadline date for these programs. And of course we hope that they do."

Isotalo said that even if Congress interrupts his agency's wind-down work at the last second, unemployed Michiganders would not see an interruption of their unemployment checks.

NELP is frustrated that Congress insists on taking a piecemeal approach to extending the benefits (the extensions do not allow people to stay on unemployment insurance for longer than already provided by the stimulus bill -- they allow people who've been laid off more recently access to the same additional tiers of financial support given to people laid off last year). The piecemeal approach guarantees that every extension will happen at the last second.

"It will always be held victim to a blizzard, to partisan politics, a flood in the spring, elections in the fall," said Judy Conti of NELP, which would rather Congress extend benefits for a full year. "What's going on in Congress is an ever-changing game. The American people and communities surviving on these unemployment benefits can't be held victim to this process."


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Evaluating EUC Tiers - Advocating For Extensions

All workers get regular state unemployment insurance benefits for up to 26 weeks. (Note: In states paying less than 26 weeks of UI benefits, unemployed workers get a proportionately smaller share of benefits under federal extension programs.) Generally, workers then draw Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) followed by Extended Benefits (EB), where available. There are currently up to four “tiers” of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) extensions available depending upon state unemployment levels. Extended Benefits are not available in all states.

EUC Tiers I and II
Unemployed workers in all states qualify for benefits under EUC Tier I and Tier II. Tier I provides 20 weeks of benefits and Tier II provides 14 weeks for a total of 34 weeks. For 3 states with (3‐month average) unemployment rates under 6.0 percent (NE, ND, and SD), this 34 weeks represents the total available extension weeks.

In states with high unemployment (defined as 6.0 percent average 3‐month total unemployment or higher), unemployed workers can become eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits known as EUC Tier III. Currently, there are 47 states (all except NE, ND, and SD), as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, in which unemployed workers can qualify for EUC Tier III.

In states with 3‐month average total unemployment rates at or above 8.5 percent, unemployed workers can qualify for 6 additional weeks of extension benefits under EUC Tier IV. The 28 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, currently paying Tier IV benefits are AL,AK, AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KY, MA, MI, MS, MO, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, WA, and WV.
Extended Benefits (EB)

Finally, a separate program, called the Extended Benefits (EB) program is currently triggered on in 39 states. There are either 13 or 20 additional weeks of benefits, under the EB program depending upon which EB triggers are part of each state’s UI law and each state’s unemployment level. As of January 31, 2010, 28 states and the District of Columbia are paying 20 weeks of EB (AL,AK AZ,CA,CT, DE, GA, ID,IL,IN,KY,ME,MA, MI,NV,NJ,NY,NC,OH,OR,PA,RI,SC,TN,TX, WA, WV, and WI). Seven states and Puerto Rico are providing 13 weeks of EB (CO, KS, MN, NH, NM, VT, and VA).

Current Legislative Efforts to Reauthorize UI Extensions
Current federal extensions (including both the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs), the additional $25 per week in each benefits check (known as Federal Additional Compensation (FAC)), and 65% COBRA subsidies for jobless workers are set to expire at the end of February 2010. The House has passed an extension of these provisions until June of this year in its Jobs Bill – everyone is now waiting for the Senate to act.

With the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and millions of unemployed Americans we are urging Congress to extend the EUC program, full federal funding of Extended Benefits, the $25 per week in Federal Additional Compensation, and the 65% 15-month COBRA subsidy through the end of 2010. Economists agree that unemployment will remain at extremely high levels through the end of this calendar year; therefore it is important to extend this program through 2010. While there appears to be majority support for reauthorization, there are also strong indications that Congress will likely extend these programs for a number of months, not for the rest of the year..

These benefits are set to expire on February 28, 2010, but in fact, if Congress does not extend these important benefits before Friday, February 19, 2010, states will have to start sending out notices to claimants that their benefits are expiring, and they will have to start reprogramming their computer systems to shut down with EUC, EB and FAC benefits. Were Congress to act after the 19th of February, there would be substantial delays in getting state programs back up and running and the disruption of benefits would be devastating to families and communities.

IT Jobs Get a Jump in January

IT hiring jumps in January

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Monday, February 08, 2010

U.S. Jobless Rate Now 9.7%, but Millions Fear Losing Unemployment Insurance

This is a good story from the AFL-CIO for those seeking information regarding information about the latest action Washington plans to take to tackle unemployment.

The following story is straight from the AFL-CIO:

"The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 10 percent to 9.7 percent in January, with 14.8 million workers now without jobs. Employment continued to decrease in construction and transportation and increase in retail, health care and temp work, according to U.S. Department of Labor data out this morning. Unemployment among black workers continued to worsen.

When both unemployed and underemployed workers are counted, there still are 25.5 million people without jobs or full-time work.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says:

We welcome the news that unemployment dropped to 9.7%, but we shed another 20,000 jobs last month, following a revised 150,000 loss in December. These numbers underscore what we have been saying all along. Working families need bigger and bolder actions—in the short, medium and long term—to create jobs in the immediate future—or we risk permanent scarring of our economy and our workforce.

Among the worst aspects of the nation’s unacceptably high unemployment rate—and there are many—the growing numbers of long-term jobless workers is something that can, and must, be addressed immediately. Long-term U.S. unemployment (those without a job for 27 weeks or longer), with more than 6 million unemployed workers out of a job for more than six months. In January, the number of long-term unemployed workers worsened, to 6.3 million workers.

But the unemployment insurance (UI) extension for millions of workers expires Feb. 28, unless Congress—specifically, the Senate—takes action.

In December, the U.S. House passed a jobs bill that included a long-term UI and Cobra extension, but the U.S. Senate failed to act and Congress was forced to pass a short-term extension of both programs. (Click here to tell your lawmakers it’s time to act.)

According to National Employment Law Project estimates, of the nearly 1.2 million U.S. workers facing a cut off of benefits in March alone:

380,000 workers will exhaust their 26 weeks of state benefits without accessing the temporary EUC extension program or the permanent federal program of Extended Benefits.
Another 814,000 workers will not be eligible to continue receiving EUC past their current tier of benefits.

A one-year extension of unemployment insurance is part of our AFL-CIO five-point jobs program, and the Obama administration supports a long-term extension. But it’s unclear what shape a Senate jobs bill will take. Senate Republicans say they will oppose any jobs legislation on a scale large enough most economists say will do real good.

After all, why should those senators worry? They have a job. For now"


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Will Tennessee Really Reduce Unemployment Pay After Being Fourth Lowest?

With Tennessee's jobless rate persistently in double digits, the idea of cutting weekly benefits has emerged as one way to keep the state's unemployment compensation fund in the black.

That seems like a smart plan to cash-strapped small-business owners, who are paying higher taxes after an increase to keep the fund solvent last year, and some say another tax increase could push them under.

But laid-off workers say the maximum weekly amount is already too low and shouldn't be tampered with.

"They should be looking at raising it," said Jerry R. Baldwin, a Brentwood man who has drawn unemployment checks for 14 months after the distribution company where he worked closed.

In Tennessee, the most a laid-off worker can get each week in unemployment benefits is $275, the fourth-lowest rate in the nation and a tie with Florida. (The rate has been bumped up temporarily to $300 a week with a $25 federal stimulus add-on.)

Some small-business owners say a cut in workers' benefits would help keep the overall unemployment fund functional.

"I don't see how we could get around it," said Kenneth Gough, president and general manager of Accurate Machine Products Corp.

The state's unemployment compensation fund stood at $630 million before the recession started. But the pool of money has been drawn all the way down to $103 million as about 170,000 unemployment checks are sent out each week.

The fund is expected to go $20 million in the red in April, but a no-interest federal loan is expected to cover the gap until tax revenues start coming in, said Bill Fox, an economist from the University of Tennessee who advises the state on the trust fund that pays jobless benefits.

However, another shortfall — this one even larger — is expected once again in 2011.

That uncertainty has everyone preparing for a whole slew of what-ifs.

"This is a problem that is not going away," said state House Speaker Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton. "Further taxation is not the answer."

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Obama Budget Includes 7-Month Extension of Unemployment Benefits

The Obama administration’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2011, unveiled yesterday, includes $49 billion to expand federal unemployment benefits, which otherwise expire at the end of the month. That’s more than the $41 billion the House passed in December to extend the benefits for six months, but wouldn’t be enough to satisfy that long list of Senate Democrats urging a 10-month extension.

“This would allow for some near-term extension of expanded unemployment benefits,” analysts at the Economic Policy Institute wrote today. “However, with costs of around $7 billion per month, this funding level would not be sufficient to extend the current benefit structure through the end of the year.”

It’s hardly set in stone. A spokesperson for the Labor Department said this week that the $49 billion is just a “placeholder,” included to recognize that the administration intends to work with Congress later to hash out the details of the unemployment insurance extension. “The Administration will propose legislation for later transmittal,” the budget declares.

They’re running out of time. Under current law, unemployed workers who exhaust their current tier of federal benefits after Feb. 28 won’t be eligible for the next. A Senate Democratic aide said Tuesday that the upper chamber, while expected to release the details of its jobs bill later this week, also intends to offer the UI and COBRA proposals as separate legislation. No word yet when that bill will surface.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Beware Online Job Scams - Scams Rise With Unemployment Rate!

Even though online job scams have become more convincing as criminals have honed their skills, sometimes victims don't fall for them — they jump into them.

“Even when they know it's a scam, I've had people say, ‘Well yeah, but what if I can make a thousand dollars out of it?'” said Tabatha Marshall, founder of and a crusader against these schemes. “People are hurting, and so many are willing to take the risk.”

Job scams have plagued the Internet for years, but their numbers have skyrocketed and their victims multiplied along with the economic downturn and a 10 percent unemployment rate. Criminals, always striking where people are the most vulnerable and emboldened by law enforcement's troubles in tracking them, went after job seekers with redoubled efforts.

The numbers of scams recorded by soared at the beginning of the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008 — a year when the number of scams more than tripled from the year before — and remained at new heights for most of 2009, Marshall said.

So-called money mule schemes represent the majority of the scams. By the end of 2009, Dutch risk management firm E-Secure-IT identified 626 money mule scams, an increase from the 406 detected in 2008.

In those ploys, victims often become unwitting accomplices to international crime by wiring money stolen mostly through computer exploits to scammers overseas. More than just losing their private information and their own assets, victims often are left facing criminal charges.

“People are being charged with fraud and theft even if they didn't know what they were doing. (Authorities) don't know if they can believe that. All they know is that you deposited a check, and it looks like it was all you,” Marshall said.

Online job scams can come in the form of work-at-home schemes, false offers with the logo and product description of a legitimate employer slapped in the body of an e-mail, or fake company Web sites with professional graphics, stock images of smiling executives and even news releases and legal disclaimers.

British nonprofit, which documents online job scams, identified more than 550 fake company Web sites in 2009 — most of them reported from the United States — more than a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

Fake company Web sites often can be recognized because of their spotty grammar or disproportional compensations for easy tasks. But in some cases, scammers have taken the entire design of legitimate organizations, using Web domains with variations of the original company's name.

In others, scammers will imitate a small or medium-size business with a solid reputation and an Internet trail that job seekers doing research can find to assuage any concerns.

Criminals “know people will do research and actually want them to find something,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum.

Fraudulent job postings also have become a headache for legitimate job sites such as, and Craigslist. While some consumer advocates question the effectiveness of their methods, in recent years they have taken a range of actions to police their sites.

Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best said the site employs “a wide array of technological and staff measures to suppress scam attempts” and that those that reach the site “are generally quickly identified and removed by user flagging.”

Patrick Manzo, head of's fraud-detection department, said the company screens all new customers before allowing them to place job ads and uses automated content monitors to inspect the site for inappropriate content.

Online job scams were also on federal authorities' radar last year. In Operation Short Change last summer, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on several mail, phone and online job scams, including Google Money Tree, a work-at-home ploy unrelated to the Internet search company that tricked victims into paying for a startup kit and later began draining $72.21 a month from their accounts.

Often, authorities can do little other than document incidents. Finding culprits can be next to impossible when criminals hide behind a maze of proxy networks and domains across the globe, causing all kinds of jurisdictional complications.

Researchers, law enforcers and advocates alike seem to agree that educating the public to recognize these scams is essential.

Some red flags to look out for are e-mail addresses from free e-mail providers such as Gmail or Hotmail instead of a corporate domain contact, requests for upfront fees or scans of driver's licenses and passports, or offers that do not match the job seeker's skills.

“One of my favorite ones: If a company tells you it's 100 percent legal, it's probably not,” Marshall said. “Some common sense will work in your favor, too.”