The Unemployed Life

Florida’s extended (extended) unemployment benefits: The good, the bad, the ugly

First, the good news for my unemployed brothers and sisters:

Due to stagnant (and in some cases, rising) unemployment throughout the country, the Obama Administration approved another round of extended benefits for laid-off Americans earlier this month. Although there is confusion surrounding who will actually get these benefits, under the best case scenerio, unemployed Floridians will receive 20 more weeks of benefits to help you get through another four months of job searching.

Well, some of us will receive those benefits (about 250,000 according to the St. Petersburg Times). Which brings me to the bad news.

If you already exhausted your benefits before the bill was passed on Nov. 6, you probably aren’t eligible (although the state says you can apply).  Also, only those Floridians who will run out of all benefits between Nov. 6 and Dec. 27 qualify for the extra weeks.

There is a lot of confusion on who qualifies for the new extension and since the state unemployment office doesn’t make much sense explaining it, they’ve set up a webpage for you to check if you qualify (click on the button that says “Check your eligibility).

That fine print has some advocacy groups upset. The National Employment Law Center just released a study that found over a million American workers will be ineligible for benefits in January 2010. Federal workers have it worse; they estimate over three million of those workers will remain unemployed.

But things get uglier.

The state has already run out of the money to pay for benefits, partly due to the Florida Legislature’s inane idea to not accept federal stimulus money for unemployment insurance. So, as unemployment rises to record levels, there is another cloud on the horizon. Due to a clause in state law, businesses will be taxed extra for unemployment benefits next year. And by “extra,” I’m mean a tax hike approaching 120 percent, which I’m sure can’t be good for companies barely keeping afloat.

Talk about a vicious circle.

The Unemployed Life

This is the best time to be unemployed

2241985233_e0d9ebca5fUnemployed brothers and sisters,

I know times are tough. Joblessness is a real heart-wrencher. But something occurred to me the other day, while sitting on my porch, drinking coffee, enjoying a perfect 70-degree day of unemployment in Florida:

Really, this is the best time to be unemployed. My evidence: The stimulus package passed last month.

In case you haven’t heard, President Barack Obama’s first success (depending on how you define it) has gobs and gobs of greenbacks for a slew of industries, homeowners and, us, the non-working people.

Of course, our bailout isn’t of banking industry quality, or even GM, but we do get a piece of the action. Specifically, about $25 a week.

Woot!

That’s an extra $100 a month, baby. In addition, many people won’t be taxed for the first $2,400 in benefits they claim. That’s good news for those of us who didn’t have taxes taken out of their unemployment checks. (By the way, this is only for unemployment since the stimulus passed, not the money you’ve received before this.)

But the most beneficial aspect of the plan, especially in this economy, is an extension of benefits. Last year, Congress already approved up to 33 weeks of extended benefits for those workers who exhaust the regular 26 weeks of benefits. That deal was set to expire, but under the stimulus package, laid-off workers can still claim those extra weeks in 2009.

But it gets better: Under the stimulus package, workers in some high unemployment states can claim an extra 13-20 weeks of benefits. Are you keeping track? That’s an estimated 18 months — a year and six months! — of benefits. And, under some economists projections, we should be out of the recession by then.

So, honestly, my fellow men and women on the dole: It could be worse. You could only have 26 weeks to find another shitty job.

UPDATE: Even those of you workers that are forced to take an unpaid “vacation” can also get benefits. That includes all you 5,600 Media General employees.