If Republicans get their way in the House and Senate, nearly 1.8 million unemployed Americans receiving jobless benefits could lose their weekly checks by January 1, 2012. Furthermore, in the year 2012 nearly 6 million people total would lose there jobless benefits. Whether these people lose their benefits or not depends on whether Congress decides to renew the current extended unemployment benefit laws that are in place.
Currently, the unemployed that are receiving benefits in states with the worst job markets can extend their benefits for an extra 40 weeks totaling a 99-week maximum of unemployment benefits they can collect. If the current law is renewed by Congress, then the extra 40 weeks of benefits that people receive would be cut decreasing the amount of time an unemployed American can stay on unemployment benefits. The unemployed living in Michigan, Illinois, Florida and California would be affected the most, seeing as though they have the worst unemployment rates currently in the country.
Democrats and the White House favor renewing the law while Republicans are against it. According to MSNBC, the law is tied to a series of other issues that include an extension of a payroll tax cut that’s also set to expire Dec. 31. There are a number of varying opinions on extending unemployment benefits, but it is difficult arguing against the law when there are so many unemployed in the U.S. and the job market is still slow. Some believe that by not renewing the law many of the unemployed will work harder to find a job while others believe that it will leave thousands of Americans out in the cold jobless and penniless. According to the MSNBC article, the unemployment rate has been higher than 8.5 percent for the past 31 months. That is the longest period of high unemployment since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking it in 1948. With the data from the latest jobs report the average duration of unemployment for Americans is 41 weeks. These statistics validate the Republicans reluctance to renew the extended benefits but many still believe that Americans need those benefits.
Currently, unemployment benefits run on a four-tier program. The first tier, which Republicans are in favor of keeping, lasts for 20 weeks. The next tier of benefits is available to those who live in states with a 6 percent unemployment rate or higher and lasts for 14 weeks. It is the Republicans plan to reduce this tier by one week lowering the time frame to 13 weeks. The last two tiers, the third and fourth, are available to those who live in states that have an 8.5 percent unemployment rate or higher and can provide up to 19 more weeks of benefits. It is the Republicans hope to eliminate these last two tiers all together making the maximum time period for benefits at about 33 weeks.
It is in the hands of Congress to renew or not renew the extended unemployment benefits program and until they make a decision, jobless Americans must sit back and wait.