The Clock is Ticking: 99 Weeks of Unemployment are Almost Up

We all have worries.

For many of us that are toiling at work it is very easy to think about only that: work — deadlines, meetings, end of the year budgets, etc, etc. But with work being so busy with being filled with ‘work’… it is very easy to forget about anything else outside of it.

For many of those out of work there are still the same worries: deadlines, meetings, end of the year budgets, etc, etc. Yet the worries are a little more pressing, a little more personal. The worries extend past an office, cubicle, factory floor, work site, corporate or warehouse building. They extend to the home, where struggles seem a little bigger then the mission or vision statement of a company.

Time is running out.

Today — December 1, 2010 — the federal extension for unemployment benefits begins to run out. Usually benefits last around six months. However, with the economic downturn over the past two years, the government added an extension that allowed it to go up to 99 weeks. But now, this time is quickly coming to a close for many Americans caught in unemployment. As MSNBC reports:

Extended unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million Americans begin to run out…., cutting off a steady stream of income and guaranteeing a dismal holiday season for people already struggling with bills they cannot pay. Unless Congress changes its mind, benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end this month.

Hours before beefed-up benefits were set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, Democrats sought to extend them for another year. But they were blocked by Republican Senator Scott Brown, who said Democrats should have taken time to work out a compromise.

Congress has let jobless benefits lapse twice already this year as Republicans insist the cost — $160 billion in the last fiscal year — be offset by cuts elsewhere to prevent the nation’s $13.8 trillion debt from growing further.

“I think we have to deal with the immediate crisis,” Democratic Senator Jack Reed said. “I think we have to deal with the families that are struggling today.”

From a “60 Minutes” report:

Some quick stats

  • For every five (5) people unemployed, there is only one (1) job opening.
  • Extending benefits would cost the country another $12 billion to the overall budget burden adding to a deficit that tops $13.7 trillion.
  • The tax-cut extension could also cost $3.7 trillion over the next decade.
  • Without an extension, an estimated 650,000 people would lose their benefits by December 11, 2010.
  • Some 1.5 million would lose them by Christmas.
  • Another 2 million would lose benefits by January 1, 2011.
  • And, an additional 3.3 million would see lapse by the end of January 2011.
  • People who either have benefits or no benefits spend their money on the bare essentials from food, rent, and basic supplies, making a direct and immediate affect in their local community and economy.

There are hard choices to be made. Some will hurt our pocket books in the short term. The right choices will benefit us all in the long-term.

The problem: people don’t like to make hard choices. So they put things on hold in business and government just like we do in life.

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I have written about layoffs and other issues that are relevant to unemployment a few times before (here, here, here, here, here, etc.) both for the good and the bad. There are many that believe that unemployment benefits actually keep people from working as a result of thinking that it is a buffer until they get the job or salary they truly desire. There are some facts that support this assumption.

However, for the many that have actually experienced the wait times before you to receive benefits, the inadequate percentage of your normal income it makes up, actually using COBRA, the heartbreaking responses from employers, the countless applications (whether related to your specific abilities or if you’re just taking a shot in the dark for hope), and the looks from their families hoping to get by – whether they were short or long-term unemployed – this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is very easy to forget about a world outside of ourselves. We all live on an island. The difference is whether we think we live on it alone or with others.

I am not asking anyone to forcefully remember. I am only asking that when you are reminded… that you understand!

If you are unemployed, how are you facing this situation? If you are currently working, what do you think (no matter how soft, or pointed) on this issue of extending unemployment benefits?


Benjamin McCall, MBA, is a Leadership Performance Consultant at a leading national print and document management company. A practitioner and speaker in the field of training and HR, he is also editor of ReThinkHR.org, a place for conversations around work, leadership, talent management, learning, and human resources.

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