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Extend the Unemployment Benefits and Reduced Payroll Tax!

Tell your legislators that they must extend -- without any harmful provisions -- both the unemployment benefits and the reduction in payroll taxes through 2012. The continued high unemployment rate is draining our nation’s resources. These economic boosts are critical.

The extension of unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed, and the reduction of payroll tax were signed into law on December 23, 2011. However, this law only lasts until February 29, 2012. Assistance to eligible long-term unemployed workers would end in the week ending on or before March 6, 2012. The payroll tax reduction would end at the same time, increasing the tax paid by all employees by two percent. This would make it increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income families to meet their responsibilities.

In December, competing House and Senate bills were considered. With pressure to get home for the holidays, Congress agreed to the Senate bill – the two-month extension. A conference committee was formed and they are trying to agree on legislation to extend both provisions through 2012 by coming to some compromise between the House and the Senate versions. Historically, unemployment benefits have been considered emergency spending, and did not require offset savings. However, in the current congressional climate, offsetting spending is required.

The House bill contains provisions that are cruel and would be devastating to most people in need of unemployment benefits.

  • Benefits would be denied to anyone who lacked a high school diploma or a G.E.D., regardless of age or experience, unless currently enrolled in a program to obtain either. According to census data, nearly 1.5 million recipients of UI in 2010 lacked a high school education. More than 35 percent of these are workers over the age of 50. The education programs necessary to become eligible under the House plan have been cut severely, and the requests for admittance have doubled to over 160,000 in the last 2 years. It is unlikely that those needing the education would be able to find it. Fewer than 20% of workers without a high school education are under the age of 30.
  • States would have the authority to require drug tests on potential recipients of benefits.
  • Up to 10 states would be granted a waiver to use federal money from unemployment insurance for other purposes, which would undermine the purpose for which Unemployment Insurance was established. State or local funds now used for job training could also be diverted