The 99ers are those Americans unemployed long enough to exhaust their unemployment benefit (UE) of 99 weeks. According to the US Department of Labor, at least 10% of the currently unemployed (over one million Americans) have been out of work over two years. They no longer receive any government UE benefit. The recent 13 month benefit extension tied to the tax bill does not increase the 99 week eligibility, it only extends the period of time where federal subsidies are used to extend the benefit out to 99 weeks.
The ranks of the 99ers is increasing at an alarming rate. One week in March of 2009, 643,000 people filed for UE benefits, a surge that lasted for several weeks during that time period. (According to Labor Department data) That was 89 weeks ago. As these recipients begin to lose assistance the ripple across the already stagnant economy will be severe. People barely hanging on will be left without anything to hang on to. This loss affects basic survival needs – food, shelter, transportation. And this is money that will no longer be feeding back into the economy.
The problem is complex, but the solution is evident – Jobs!
Our country hasn’t seen this kind of hole in the job market since the Labor Department began tracking employment numbers in the early seventies. As of November, slightly more than four million people had been unemployed more than a year and in the coming months, unless companies begin opening their doors to new employees, a social disaster is imminent among the chronically unemployed. The jobs situation must improve to end the plight of the 99ers.
The future is a scary thing to look at when you don’t know what it holds. My heart goes out to anyone in that situation.
You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live. ~William Shakespeare