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Unemployment Extension Benefits

            A long partisan stand-off ended on July 20th when the US Senate finally passed a fourth extension of unemployment benefits (Scherer). The long-standing Republican filibuster was finally broken when Carte Goodwin, who succeeded West Virginia's Robert Byrd, was sworn in and allowed for the 60-40 vote that passed the extension (Wendel). The stand-off resulted from a debate over how to finance the extension. Democrats preferred to pay for benefits with additional federal debt, while Republicans wanted to make cuts to other government programs (Wendel). The bill was then sent to the House and then on to President Obama (Scherer). .
             The many Americans experiencing the unanticipated struggle to find a job are allowed to progress through the four tiers of unemployment benefits. When state benefits end at 26 weeks, the unemployed begin the first tier of federal benefits. Federal benefits vary in length from state to state depending on the severity of the unemployment situation of that state (Scherer). .
             The newly passed bill will cost an estimated $34 billion (Scherer). However, this money will not only help out those who cannot find a job, but it will also ease some of the federal budget deficit, which is proposed to be $1.6 trillion in February (Scherer). The unemployed will reinvest their benefit checks in the economy, increasing economic activity and bringing the federal budget deficit closer to $1.3 trillion, according to Stanley Collender, a budget expert at Qorvis Communications (Scherer). .
             While many people will be helped by the new extension, the "99ers" are out of luck. This group consists of those who have already collected on 99 weeks of unemployment insurance (Scherer). The 99ers are currently petitioning for legislators to add a Tier 5 to the new extension plan that would include the 1.4 million Americans who have reached the limit on their benefits (Hoffer). Supporters of this argue that, while adding a Tier 5 would increase the $34 million cost, most - if not all - of the money will be reinvested in the economy.

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