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Labor: Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance was created in 1935 by the Social Security Act, both to provide a financial buffer to laid-off workers and to stimulate the economy as they spend that money.

The current system is a combination of several programs...

o The permanent unemployment insurance created in 1935. It pays benefits for up to 26 weeks (depending on which state the laid-off employee had worked in) to those who are looking to replace a job they lost. Benefits typically amount to half of the person's previous income. It remains in effect.

o A separate permanent program extends those benefits by up to 20 weeks on a state-by-state basis, based on the state's unemployment rate. No state currently is at the required unemployment rate threshold, so no benefits are being paid.

o Temporary emergency extensions created by Congress.

Related Issues

Unemployment Insurance

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New unemployment benefits bill introduced in Senate

2014-Jun-25  (Updated: 2014-Jun-26)By: Barry Shatzman

A new bill to restore unemployment benefits beyond six months has been introduced in the Senate.

Like the previous bill (HR-3979) which the Senate passed in April, this bill (S-2532) would extend benefits for an additional 5 months (for a total of 11 months).

Unlike the previous bill, retroactive benefits would not be paid. If your benefits stopped after 6 months and you still are unemployed, you would be able to restart your benefits and continue receiving them for the 5-month extension.

For more, read this Washington Post story.

Updated 6/26/14 to add the bill number

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Senate passes unemployment benefits extension

2014-Apr-08By: Barry Shatzman

The Senate passed a bill that would restore unemployment benefits for those whose benefits expired at the end of December. It would pay benefits retroactively through the end of May.

This is a different bill than the previous bill that would have restored benefits through the end of March but was filibustered by Senate Republicans - thus extending the drought for millions of unemployed Americans who reached their 26-week limit during the first 5 months of 2014.

This bill, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act (HR-3979), originally passed in the House of Representatives as the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act.

House Speaker John Boehner has said the House likely will not consider this extension.

For more, read the The Hill story.

Click here to read our explanation of how this bill changed so drastically - including its name - from the bill passed by the House.

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Senate again refuses to advance unemployment benefits extension

2014-Feb-06By: Barry Shatzman

The Senate failed to overcome a filibuster preventing passage of a bill to extend long-term unemployment benefits by three months. 60 votes are required to end a filibuster.

For more, read the New York Times story.

How did your Senators vote? Click here.

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Senate delays unemployment benefits extension until at least Feb

2014-Jan-16By: Barry Shatzman

Any extension to unemployment insurance benefits has been put on hold, as the Senate failed to overcome a filibuster that would have allowed discussion to take place.

55 senators voted to end the filibuster, but 60 were needed.

Any extension is not likely to happen until at least February, as the Senate will be taking a 1-week break the last week of January.

For more, read the New York Times story.

How did your Senators vote? Click here.

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Senate votes to allow debate on unemployment insurance extension

2014-Jan-07By: Barry Shatzman

The Senate voted 60-37 to proceed with a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits through March 31. The 2008 bill which extended benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks expired at the end of 2013 - stopping benefits for anyone who already had received at least 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits.

The cloture vote allows debate on the bill to proceed. The bill still will require another 60 percent vote to prevent a filibuster and allow it to proceed to a floor vote - where it would require only a majority to pass.

If the bill passes the Senate, it also would need to pass the House of Representatives before being sent to the president to sign it into law.

For more, read the Washington Post story.

You can follow the bill's progress at

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Unemployment insurance drops to 26 weeks - millions cut off

2013-Dec-28  (Updated: 2014-Jan-03)By: Barry Shatzman

As 2013 came to an end, so did unemployment insurance for more than a million Americans. The reason - in brief - is that Congress did not renew an extension to the benefit before the Dec. 28 deadline. But understanding the situation requires a little more explanation.

The permanent unemployment insurance system that pays benefits for up to 26 weeks remains in effect. However, the most recent temporary emergency extension - approved by Congress in 2008 - expired at the end of 2013.

As a result of Congress not acting to extend the 2008 emergency program, unemployment benefits are paid only by the permanent system. As of the end of 2013, approximately 1.3 million Americans had received 26 (or more) weeks of benefits, and are not eligible for further unemployment compensation.

Each week, more people will reach their 26th week of benefits - meaning unemployment compensation will end for them. If Congress does not create a new extension, the number of Americans losing benefits could reach almost 5 million by the end of 2014.

For more, read the Los Angeles Times story.

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