It’s Still 99 Weeks
News reports of Obama’s tax deal with congressional Republicans often refer to one particular provision as “extending” federal unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. This wording has lead to some misunderstanding. The proposed package doesn’t so much extend federal unemployment benefits as revive them.
The federal unemployment benefit program ended at the end of November, which means that under current law, workers who exhaust Wisconsin’s 26 weeks of state benefits are not eligible for any federal benefits at all.
If the proposed tax plan is enacted, the federal unemployment benefit program will be reinstated, and workers will again be eligible for up to a maximum of 99 weeks of state and federal benefits, the same number as before the program expired. Under the proposed plan, federal benefits will phase out after the end of 2011.
Some have misconstrued the proposal to mean that unemployed workers will have access to a greater number of weeks of benefits. That is not the case. This proposed action will keep the benefit duration and amount the same as it was before the program expired, but will extend the duration of the program until the end of 2011.
Right now, workers in Wisconsin are exhausting their state and federal benefits at a rate of about 8,100 per week, according to Department of Workforce Development Communications Director John Dipko.