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Congress continues debate on unemployment extension benefits


The House of Representatives recently continued to debate a bill that would extend unemployment benefits through November. With the Independence Day recess right around the corner, many doubt that the Senate will approve the bill if the House does pass it. As it stands now, 2 million unemployed Americans will have to find a way to survive.

By July 10, the unemployment extension benefits for the nation will come to an end.

Unemployment insurance benefits have given a claimant up to 26 weeks of pay. Since the recession has hit, these benefits were extended and four tiers were added in addition to a separate Federal-State-Extended Duration (FED-ED) tier.

The first four tiers are referred to as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) extended benefits, and they are entirely federally funded. The FED-ED, however, is federally funded for most employers, meaning that mainly tax-rated employers will not be charged for the benefits paid to the claimants.

After the first 26 weeks of a claimant’s benefits are exhausted, the first-tier extension takes effect, allowing an extra 20 weeks of benefits. When the first tier is exhausted and the claimant still has no job, then the benefits are extended to a second tier which gives the claimant an extra 14 weeks.

If the second tier runs out then the third tier benefits the claimant,  providing an additional 13 weeks of assistance. After the third tier is used up, then the fourth tier offers an extra six weeks. If the claimant is still jobless, the FED-ED extension helps the applicant for an extra 20 weeks. The total number of weeks a claimant can be on unemployment is 99 weeks. Once the 99 weeks are done, the applicant has exhausted all of their benefits.

However, H.R. 4213–American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, would extend the filing deadline for existing tiers until November 30, 2010. If this bill passes those who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits would be able to extend the EUC program through November 2010. This program would provide (depending on a State’s unemployment rate) up to 53 weeks of extended benefits. If the claimant were still depending on unemployment after the 53 weeks, then they would be part of the Extend the Extended Benefits (EB) program through November 2010. This program provides up to an additional 13 to 20 weeks of benefits in certain states–13 weeks for states at or above 6.5 percent unemployment and another seven weeks for states at or above eight percent unemployment. There would also be an extended Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) through November 2010. FAC would increase unemployment benefits by $25 a week. Finally, the bill would also eliminate “the penalty for part-time employment in the EUC program.  The legislation coordinates EUC with regular benefits by providing states with a number of options to allow EUC claimants to remain eligible for the EUC program, when they become newly entitled to state unemployment compensation, if switching to state benefits would reduce their weekly UI check by at least $100 or 25 percent.”

According to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), there are approximately 137,000 claimants who have exhausted their 99-week benefits.

If the United States Senate does not act now all these people will face an uncertain financial future. As a consequence of the congressional inaction, those who are in a first, second, third, fourth tier, or FED-ED will only receive the amount of weeks left from that tier but won’t be able to move to the next one.

The unemployment rate in the country is 9.7 percent and in California it’s 12.4 percent.

However, it is the minority groups, especially the Black community, that are feeling the impact of this inaction. The unemployment rate for African Americans is double that of the country with a staggering 17.1 percent. The rate quadruples for African American youth–38 percent of African Americans ages 16-19 are jobless.

While Republicans and Democrats negotiate on a bill that would cost $33.9 billion, thousands of Americans will be out of options and many might have to turn to shelters or even the streets.