Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Unemployment extension won’t help all unemployed
When President Barack Obama signed the bill extending unemployment benefits into law Thursday night, more than 2 million workers nationwide — and nearly 15,000 in Iowa — saw the unprecedented delay in benefits finally come to an end after months of Republican opposition. But as Annie Lowrey of our sister site The Washington Independent points out, not all unemployed will get relief.
The legislation does not expand the number of weeks that unemployment benefits can be collected beyond 99, the current federal limit. So those who have reached that limit, known as “99ers,” have still exhausted their benefits and won’t see that change any time soon.
But even the most active members of Congress on the unemployment issue say there will be no bill to help 99ers by adding a fifth tier of benefits — the most direct way to keep families and individuals out of poverty. “What we’ve seen in this fight is the difficulty of just expanding the program that we have,” says Ed Shelleby, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., the head of the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support of the Ways and Means Committee.
The Ways and Means Committee originates most bills concerning unemployment, Social Security, Medicare and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or welfare benefits. Thus far, McDermott is the only member of Congress to have held hearings addressing the plight of the 99ers specifically, and Shelleby says that the congressman “recognize[s] the need to help long-term unemployed folks legislatively” and believes that after unemployment insurance ends “we can’t let millions of people fall off a cliff.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of June approximately 1.4 million Americans fell into the “99ers” category, which accounts for 9.2 percent of all unemployed workers. This means that in the past three years, the number of 99ers has multiplied sixfold from roughly 221,000 in June 2007.