Unemployment Benefit Extensions: Who Wins

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The White House inched closer Thursday to a final compromise with lawmakers who would ensure Bush-era tax cuts are extended for all income brackets this year, a deal that includes an extension of unemployment benefits for many Americans.

The deal has, in many ways, pitted President Obama’s administration against much of his liberal base, who would prefer to see tax cuts expire on the wealthiest households earning $250,000 or more a year. But in response to the pushback on this compromise, the president has tried to focus attention on two of the key benefits of the tentative plan: It would continue to give tax breaks to middle-class Americans, putting much needed money in their pockets, and it would also extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 months, potentially stopping millions of jobless Americans from going without funds.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the first part of this claim, breaking down just how much the average American would actually save annually by having the tax cut extended. The answer is less than you’d think.

As for the unemployment benefits, this new proposal is a bit of mixed bag.

Prior to the recession, unemployed workers were entitled to receive up to 26 weeks worth of benefits, but as a result of the economic crisis and jobless rates lingering near 10%, Congress extended the time period for these benefits five separate times to a maximum of 99 weeks’ worth of jobless benefits.

But starting at the end of November, these extensions began to expire one by one. So, for example, those who finished collecting their initial 26 weeks of unemployment benefits in the week ending Nov. 20, or anytime since, are no longer entitled to any additional benefits. Likewise, those who have already received the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment have officially maxed out their benefit options.

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