Unemployment Benefits Extension: A Clarification
There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about what the nature of the extension of unemployment benefits that is included in the deal that President Obama cut with Senate Republicans. Most conservative critics of the idea, as well as several people on the left, seem to think that it’s an extension of benefits for people who have been receiving benefits but have surpassed the 99 week statutory limit. As Ed Morrissey notes, that isn’t the case at all:
The extension in this case applies to the entire program, not individual benefits. Both Gabriel Malor and Calculated Risk have noted the difference. The emergency federal benefits come in four tiers of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) that start when state-based unemployment ends, and the number of weeks available for aid depends on the unemployment rate within the state. Half of the states qualify for both the full EUC (the first three tiers) and the full extended benefits (the fourth tier).
However, without this deal, EUC and EB both end within the next two weeks regardless of how many weeks of compensation people in the system have received. This deal extends the two programs for another 13 months. This will allow those in the system who have not yet exhausted their eligibility — up to 99 weeks in half the states but only 60 weeks in five — to continue receiving unemployment.
The media hasn’t done a very good job of explaining this part of the deal, and most of the commentators who have mentioned it have demagogued it as an “extension,” thus leading people to believe that the 99 week limit was being surpassed. That isn’t the case.
The program is still going to cost money, of course, but it’s more of a lifeline to an existing program than an expansion. Which seems to me to be yet another reason to not be so politically outraged over it.