Time To Extend Unemployment Benefits Again

Some of the “99ers”” unemployment benefits are about to run out and the government has to decide whether to extend again.  If one hasn't found a job after 99 weeks of looking, there is a possibility that there may be an issue with the candidate rather than the economy, which seems to be improving day by day. 

As a result, extending unemployment benefits for the 99ers might be a waste of money as some argue.  Not I.  I think there is a serious case for extending unemployment benefits to well beyond 99 weeks.  Stop being so smug!

99 weeks of unemployment benefits is such an arbitrary number frankly.  Why not 78, 63, or 103 weeks instead?  Who knows these things.  What I think the government should do is employ a “Shock & Awe Yeah” (SAY) unemployment policy of up to 260 weeks (5 years) provided one has worked for 5 years before applying.  If one has only worked for 2 years, then s/he will get 2 years of unemployment benefits and so forth.  Why such a long unemployment benefit level you ask?  Why not!

TWO MAIN BENEFITS For Unemployment Benefits

99 weeks is already a pretty long time to collect unemployment checks.  There's really no difference between 99 weeks and 260 weeks.  If you can't find a job after 99 weeks, you likely aren't going to have much luck in the 250th week of looking because by that time, you'll have been unemployed for almost 5 years. 

The government doesn't want to let you starve, so hopefully after 5 years of living on a smaller check, you will become very frugal and adaptable to a lower income.  Your more self-sufficient self will become much less of a fiscal burden down the road as result.

The second and most important benefit of extending the safety net to 5 years is the amount of creativity and boldness that will result from millions of employees everywhere. 

If you have a job, and know that you have a 5 year safety net, you are going to take more risks, work harder, and come up with new ideas.  You will stop being afraid of standing out in your organization.  You will stop being another worker drone checking in and checking out.


The beauty of “Shock & Awe Yeah” is that as the economy recovers, the chances of people requiring 2, 3, 4, 5 years of unemployment benefits greatly diminishes.  Meanwhile, this brilliant policy will galvanize people to work harder and be more productive, generate more profits, increase hiring and further eliminate the need for “Shock & Awe Yeah”!

So what do you think guys?  Should we suggest our Big Government friends to extend their reach and shake up the unemployment benefits duration?

Updated for 2020: Enhanced Unemployment Benefits During A Pandemic



42 thoughts on “Time To Extend Unemployment Benefits Again”

  1. I have a master’s degree in computer science, excellent references from past employers…and last year it took me five months of looking full-time to find a job. If it was that difficult for me, I can’t imaging how long it might take people who don’t even have a college education.

  2. Roger, the Amateur Financier

    Hum, interesting argument, Sam. I think that many of the commentators don’t realize that it is possible to collect unemployment while still working. (At least in my state of Pennsylvania; I can’t speak to how unemployment works in the other 49 states.) As long as I’m not working my previous full time hours and don’t earn more than the limits set out by the state (which are based on my level of benefits and my partial work credit, the amount I can earn before they start to decrease the amount I receive in benefits), I can work and still collect (a portion of) my unemployment benefits. Because of that, I had been working part-time at Wal-Mart with no fear that I would have to take a pay cut from what I was getting in benefits, and now I’m able to get a little extra boost while going to grad school to sharpen my skills.

    Now, this is not to say that there isn’t some truth to the idea that getting unemployment decreases your motivation to accept a lower paying job; I wouldn’t have worked full-time at Wal-Mart, for example, because I would take home less if I stopped getting unemployment altogether. My point, though, is that the unemployment system DOES try to take this into account, providing incentives to work to those people receiving benefits.

    That said, I wouldn’t have a problem with attaching some kind of conditions to continued unemployment benefits. If after six months to a year of receiving unemployment, you had to have a part-time job (even a very crappy one) and/or be attending some sort of classes to improve your skill set to keep getting benefits, I think it would result in a lot more people thinking ahead and trying to figure out how they can use their unemployed ‘down time’ to advance their skills. Hopefully, they are doing that anyway (as I’ve tried to do), but I understand how easy it is to fall into bad habits and not get around to improving yourself.

    1. That’s very interesting Rog on being able to work part-time and get unemployment! I’ll have to look into that in CA. It makes sense to me, as it shouldnt be all or none. That way, it encourages people to still work at jobs deemed beneath their abilities.

  3. 2 years is enough time. In 2 years a person can go to school or some kind of training for a job even if its in another field of work. When I lost my job I went to school and drew unemployment. In that 2 years i got my new education in a fail safe field of work experience. People need to do better things with there time then sitting and waiting. Yeah they looking for a job but if the field of work they are looking at ain’t doing nothing they might wanna rethink their strategy.

    1. That’s great that you were able to get more educational training and land on your feet in those two years!

      If what you say is true though, perhaps people are acting rationally and are content to collect UI and then go find a job that might not be their ideal.

  4. The states only give 26 weeks. Then the federal extended benefits can add up to 73 weeks if you are in a state with high enough unemployment percentage. You have to move from Tier to Tier. So as long as the unemployment in the state is high enough you can get all the tiers. Also, Congress needs to pass the unemployment extension so you can move from Tier to Tier.

    By the way the amount of weeks is a cash amount and you really don’t get that many weeks when you divide the amount they say you can get per week into the amount total for each tier. In other words you really are not likely to get 99 weeks total.

    It has been really difficult dealing with getting the extensions passed so I can move from Tier to Tier. Meanwhile they go on vacation once again while we are looking at our unemployment benefits expiring. Each time it expires it has been a big hit since it cause late fees and could cause higher interest rates ,overdraft fees, etc… Let alone needing the money just to eat or pay for my car payment.

    You need money to find a job it is just that simple. The job market for the past year has been horrible. Things seem to be picking up for me personally as far as job prospects but I am an engineer and that probably helps. I am looking for jobs nationwide and keeping my mind open. I have done contract work to get working asap in the past and I am looking to get working. Hopefully now that Detroit Automotive industry is recovering I may find a job. I may go into aerospace again too. I do think the election was a hold up and the Obamacare plan may have scared some employers. I do see the need for some healthcare for our workers because I don’t trust insurance companies.

    Anyways, good luck to those unemployed. Hope you all get a good job. I am just trying to hold on tell I get a job offer.

  5. Being unemployed really were too bad not unless they will do something on their own to earn for a living and does not depend only on our gov’t unemployment benefits. Everybody should look for a job at least to feed his or her mouth and family if he has one.

  6. Roshawn @ Watson Inc

    If it’s extended to 5 years, why not make make it indefinite until the economy recovers by some objective measure? Whether that will make any difference for several of those receiving benefits is unknown. I agree there is nothing to be smug about; there are clearly issues at play that go beyond simply extending benefits. :(

    1. Nah, there definitely needs to be a limit when it comes to govt support to encourage folks to go out on their own.

      If the govt made tax policies clear and permanent however, that is a great boon for the economy bc then people can plan.

  7. People who are “really” looking for a job should land a job in 99 weeks. As someone pointed out, you might not get a job with your same pay grade but it’s a job. It’s a start to back on your own feet and then continue to looking for work. It’s better to be job hunting with a job rather than sit at home.
    The 99 weeks (arbitrary number) should change based on the current state of the economy.

  8. harvestwages

    Man, i like this benefits.
    i think even before 5 years of unemployment, i must have made myself comfortable with the situation. 3 years is sufficient to transform an unemployed to a self employed.

  9. Kevin@InvestItWisely

    What happens after 5 years? Looks like we’ll have to make it 25 years by that point.

  10. The unemployment benefits should last as long as it takes to move to India or China. Isn’t that where you have to move to get a job now?

  11. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    24-26 (6 mos) tops – then ship them to Europe or somewhere else where they can get fed free for life – or wait state side as things will likely become similar with the way we are going

  12. You’re totally right about the arbitrary number. I have always thought the 99 was odd. Perhaps they just didn’t want it 3 digits so it was a number reason. I would definitely change how I operate and take more risks if I knew there was a 5 year blanket under me.

  13. Personally I believe that would be the wrong way to go, mentally as well as financially, as far as the government’s budget goes.

    Just because you worked for 5 years is no reason that you should get 5 years of unemployment benefits. It’s not like you paid enough taxes to earn you that amount of time off.

    Also the longer you are off work the harder it is to get back into it. If you knew you had 5 years up your sleeve you wouldn’t be busting your chops to get another job. And when you finally start looking you find you just ran out of time. Then what, you ask for another extension?

  14. Just because its arbitrary doesn’t mean we should make it even more arbitrary! If I work 20 years, between that and social security I’ll have a nice little government teet to suckle off.

    P.S. I am pretty pumped to use the word teet

  15. Sam, a few flaws here.

    – 5 years is just as arbitrary as 99 weeks, or the 119 weeks they’re pushing.

    – These people can’t afford to take risks. This isn’t supposed to be an allowance so they can goof off and try out for American Idol. These people need to get back to work and pick up the pieces from their lives falling apart.

    – The longer people are out of work, the harder it is to get a job again – especially anywhere near the same pay and skill level. It’s a dynamic workplace and losing a few years makes you obsolete quickly. Losing 5? That’s starting over in many industries.

    – You neglected to include the cost of this spree. You’d be approaching a Trillion there buddy.

    Sounds nice and generous – you’re looking out for people struggling. But you’re spending our kids’ future. We’re $14 Trillion in debt now and we cannot dig out as it is. I’m not sayin these people aren’t struggling. They are. But there needs to be an orderly exit from the program.

    1. Those are some good points.

      – Arbitrary is my point. Everything is arbitrary it seems.

      – Costs WON’T be 5 years worth. That’s just the absolute worst case scenario which 1) isn’t gonna happen, and 2) will probably be LESS than the current 99 weeks b/c the benefits of having the SAY program will BOOST employment!

    2. I agree with you, Darwin. It becomes more and more difficult to get back into the workforce the longer you have been out of it. Besides, it is probably also very hard psychologically and emotionally for long-term unemployed people to keep their pride and dignity. After all, most of us enjoy working even if we gripe about our jobs. Almost any job is better than no job at all and sitting around idly.

  16. Surely you jest with the 250 week number! I think that 100 weeks makes sense because it’s a perfectly even number and easy to remember!!

    1. I do not jest… 250 is a legit number!

      BTW, I’ve been trying to get my Commentluv plugin to work for 2 months, and it looks like yours has. Did you just click the box, and your latest post came up automatically?

      1. That’s too long of a time to grant unemployment benefits. Yep it did. You might
        have to unban your URL. I had to go to commentluv and unban my URL. If a feed
        takes too long to load, it will stop publishing it via commentluv.

        1. Good to know about Commentluv working for you! I dont care if it doesn’t work for me on my site since it’s my site. But it is weird it doesn’t work for me. It does work when I visit other sites. Cheers

  17. It would be nice for some to extend the un-employment benefits. However, aren’t we being a spoiler for giving them benefits of being un-employed? The 99 days should be enough for them to get a good job if they are really searching for one.

  18. Money Reasons

    Some that would do as you say and try to maximize their earnings by becoming entrepreneurs, but most would ride that wave until it ends. They would just have a good time, and not really try to do anything with passion. Kind of sad huh…

  19. Personally, I don’t think you should be able to get extensions if you haven’t taken advantage of some of the programs the unemployment office has to offer. I know people that got new job training paid for by the government and got back on their feet. It isn’t just unemployment checks being offered, but a whole lot more, and also help with job searching. (I believe you can apply for $5350 in Pell grants.)

  20. Hahahaha. Five years. And where do you suppose this money should come from? I can’t believe that you all are agreeing with Sam.

    Guess who pays for this umemployment insurance – The employers, not the U.S. tax payer per se’. How in hell will the economy ever get better if the people who have to provide jobs are the same ones that are making umemployment benefit payouts?

    And can we really say that the economy is getting better if the money that is being fueled into it is not sustainable? In other words, we can only create and distribute so much money before our debt holders decide to say, “to hell with this, (In the annoying tone of Jim Cramer) SELL, SELL, SELL.”

    Good thought provoking post, Sam.

  21. I’m a bit undecided. This is probably the best way the government can get money back into the economy. These unemployment checks are spent as soon as they arrived. On the other hand, maybe the chronic unemployed need to make some permanent changes and this crutch is just prolonging the agony.

  22. Sam,
    I look forward to becoming part of the SAY program. I’ve been out of work for 97 weeks, but I’ve been applying for lots of jobs (in management). I cant figure out why I can’t get an interview, I’ve been employed before and in 07, people told me it was easy to get a job! Things must have changed, but I am glad for the unemployment!

    1. Mate, keep up your spirits. I strongly do believe the economy is improving and 1H 2011 should see a big pickup in hiring. There is generally always a hiring freeze in 4Q so do not worry! Best, Sam

  23. Sandy @yesiamcheap

    I know that SAM is doing this for the shock value, but you have got to be out of your mind. 99 weeks is too long already. Maybe Jay-Z should change to “I got 99-weeks getting a job ain’t fun.”

    Come on we know that there are people out there earnestly trying to get employed and having issues, but is everyone? Hell no! There are some lazy people out there (and I know a few) sucking up as much as they can get while sitting on their asses doing nothing. Meanwhile I have to schlep my buns to work every day.

    Two years is long enough. Suck it up. Work somewhere “beneath” you. I am. I kid, I kid. Kinda.

    1. Sandy, actually I think the SAY program could really work precisely because of the two benefits I highlighted in the post and what Retireby40 said about direct stimulus!

      Could be genius frankly! When you have no fear, you start to take risks and do great things!

  24. I definitely think we should “shake up” the unemployment rules.

    I’m thinking 26 weeks!

    It’s 10% unemployment, not 50%. I’m amazed that people are just okay with being in the bottom 10% of employable people for two years. Have some pride and get a job.

    1. How about 10 weeks? hahaha. That’s gives people enough time to pack up and move to another state. The government/employers shouldn’t have to guarantee the welfare of workers, it should be the worker’s education and skills.

      Or how about this one that I think Sam was getting at, “why even continue with the whole I can’t find a job attitude?” If anything, a jobless state would light a fire under me to make me realize that I can no longer rely on others for my well-being. It would entice me to become a job giver, not a job taker.

    2. Ouch, that’s some tough love. I guess you have a point on the bottom 10% of people are unemployed, but is that usually the case? Perhaps I’ll write a follow up post.


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