Jobless benefits extension muddled by lawmaker wrangling

Mike Lillis at the Washington Independent sends the following dispatch from the frontlines in the partisan war to extend benefits to the vast ranks of the unemployed.

“To hear the Democrats tell the tale,” he writes, the extension of jobless benefits enacted over the weekend will provide those living in high-unemployment states with an additional 20 weeks of insurance…”

But it won’t, not quite.

And that’s because the bill was held up for so long in the Senate, that an end-of-the-year filing deadline will prevent anyone from accessing the final six weeks of benefits.

From Lillis:

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) (WDCpix)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) (WDCpix)
That’s according to state officials and sources on Capitol Hill. On Friday, President Obama signed into law legislation extending jobless benefits by 14 weeks nationwide, with an additional six weeks for those states where unemployment rates top 8.5 percent. Those benefits kicked in on Sunday. But there’s a glitch. The new law treats the 20-week extension as two separate extensions of 14 weeks and six weeks, with participants required to exhaust the first 14 weeks before applying for the next six. However, the current law keeps a Dec. 31 application deadline, roughly seven weeks from now, making collecting the full 20 weeks impossible.

That’s not all. The emergency unemployment benefits provided beginning in 2008 are also tiered. The filing deadline applies to all tiers. That is, the new extension would effectively grandfather the unemployed into the tier where they sit at the end of December, preventing them from jumping into the next, even if they were eligible.

As a result, some members of Congress are already eying another sweeping unemployment extension, which would both address the deadline glitch and provide additional help — well beyond the six weeks in question — to those unable to find work next year, when jobless rates are expected to hover near double digits.

Continue reading at the Washington Independent, the Colorado Independent’s sister site in D.C.

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