November 15, 2002
CURRENT FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PROGRAM
WILL EXPIRE IN MOST STATES UNLESS HOUSE PASSES SENATE BILL
90,000 Workers Per Week Would Lose Benefits Under House Bill
Starting Three Days After Christmas
by Wendell Primus, Isaac Shapiro, and Jessica Goldberg
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On November 14, the House and Senate each passed bills relating to the federal Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program, which is currently scheduled to expire on December 28. The bipartisan Senate bill, H.R. 3529, extends the entire program for another three months, while the House version, H.R. 5063, only partially extends the program and lasts for only five weeks.
Under the House bill, starting on December 29, approximately 90,000 workers per week will run out of state unemployment benefits without finding a job and get no assistance from the federal government. Except in a small handful of states, the House bill does not allow any workers who exhaust regular state benefits after December 28 to get any federal assistance. The Senate bill would provide assistance to these workers.
In addition, under the House bill, workers already receiving federal benefits on December 28 would see those benefits arbitrarily cut off five weeks later, even if they would otherwise have qualified for more weeks. The Senate bill does not include this arbitrary cut-off.
Under the current program, people who exhaust their regular, state-funded benefits generally qualify for up to 13 weeks of federal benefits. In states that meet the program’s “high unemployment” criteria, workers qualify for up to 26 weeks of federal benefits. Due to the restrictiveness of the “high unemployment” criteria, only three states — Alaska, Oregon, and Washington — currently qualify, although a few more might qualify in the next couple of months.
- Under the House bill, the current TEUC program would be severely cut back, and would expire after five weeks. Unemployed workers who exhaust their regular benefits after December 28 would qualify for federal TEUC benefits only if they live in a “high unemployment” state, and those benefits would be cut off after February 2.
The House bill would also provide some modest assistance to a subset of unemployed workers in other states — those who are already receiving TEUC benefits on December 28 but have not yet gotten their full 13 weeks of benefits — by postponing the cut-off date for their benefits until February 2.
- Under the Senate bill, the full TEUC program would continue for another three months, until March 29. As a result, everyone who exhausts regular benefits after December 28 would still be eligible for TEUC benefits. In addition, unlike the House bill, the Senate bill does not impose an arbitrary cut-off date; workers receiving TEUC benefits on March 29 would still continue to receive the full number of weeks for which they are eligible.
The number of workers affected is substantial. The Senate bill would assist an additional 1.2 million jobless workers (roughly 90,000 per week) — those who are expected to exhaust their regular state-funded benefits between December 28 and March 29 and do not live in one of the few “high unemployment” states. Moreover, the Senate bill puts five times as many dollars in the hands of unemployed workers as the House bill, because it provides more weeks of benefits, as well as covering more workers. (The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House bill will cost $0.9 billion, while the Senate bill will cost $4.9 billion.)
It would be unwise for the House to deny benefits to these workers, given the state of the nation’s economy. The unemployment rate has been stagnating, and the number of jobs has actually been declining in recent months. It should be noted, however, that neither bill would help the one million jobless workers who have already exhausted all their TEUC benefits.
Finally, if there is no further action in the House or Senate on this issue, the program will expire altogether on December 28, and no unemployed workers will get federal assistance in the new year.
The following table provides state-by-state estimates of the number of workers assisted under the two bills.
Estimated Numbers of Workers Who Would be Assisted
by Senate and House Proposals to Extend the TEUC Program
Estimated Number of Workers Assisted by the Senate Bill Estimated Number of Workers Assisted by the House Bill Difference Alabama 17,800 6,000 11,800 Alaska 12,700 9,900 2,800 Arizona 20,300 7,400 12,900 Arkansas 15,700 4,800 10,900 California 317,100 129,900 187,200 Colorado 34,200 14,500 19,700 Connecticut 24,300 10,600 13,700 Delaware 4,200 1,800 2,400 DC 5,300 1,700 3,600 Florida 93,200 40,500 52,700 Georgia 57,600 20,600 37,000 Hawaii 4,500 1,800 2,700 Idaho 9,100 2,700 6,400 Illinois 93,800 41,700 52,100 Indiana 38,500 13,300 25,200 Iowa 14,200 5,300 8,900 Kansas 14,200 4,600 9,600 Kentucky 15,600 6,700 8,900 Louisiana 19,500 7,900 11,600 Maine 5,900 3,000 2,900 Maryland 19,700 7,900 11,800 Massachusetts 61,000 23,700 37,300 Michigan 81,800 32,900 48,900 Minnesota 29,800 11,900 17,900 Mississippi 13,700 5,900 7,800 Missouri 32,800 12,600 20,200 Montana 4,400 1,200 3,200 Nebraska 8,600 2,700 5,900 Nevada 16,800 5,400 11,400 New Hampshire 2,600 800 1,800 New Jersey 98,200 40,700 57,500 New Mexico 6,600 2,000 4,600 New York 176,900 65,900 111,000 North Carolina 59,800 28,000 31,800 North Dakota 2,700 900 1,800 Ohio 52,600 22,900 29,700 Oklahoma 14,300 5,200 9,100 Oregon 50,000 37,500 12,500 Pennsylvania 88,300 35,600 52,700 Rhode Island 8,200 3,100 5,100 South Carolina 24,200 9,900 14,300 South Dakota 800 200 600 Tennessee 38,900 16,400 22,500 Texas 213,100 62,100 151,000 Utah 13,600 5,400 8,200 Vermont 2,400 1,000 1,400 Virginia 26,300 8,600 17,700 Washington 77,200 56,700 20,500 West Virginia 6,200 2,500 3,700 Wisconsin 33,700 13,200 20,500 Wyoming 2,500 400 2,100 Total 2,085,400 857,900 1,227,500 Note: *Currently, only Alaska, Oregon, and Washington qualify to provide the second tier of TEUC benefits. This table assumes that no other states meet the trigger requirement, and that these three states remain qualified.