Category Archives: unemployment benefits

Congressman Frank Pallone’s Statement on Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Insurance and Medicare Doc Fix

WASHINGTON D.C.—On Friday, February 17, 2012, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives on the extension of the Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Insurance and Medicare doctor’s payment fix. The bill will continue vital programs that provide tax cuts averaging $1,000 for more that 160 millions Americans, extend unemployment insurance payments for those who are out of work through no fault of their own and ensure that doctors can continue to treat Medicare patients. While the extensions of the programs are critical, Congressman Pallone expressed his disappointment that the programs have been saved by cutting benefits to federal workers and payments to hospitals and nursing facilities.

The following is the statement Congressman Pallone delivered on the House Floor:

Thank you, M. Speaker. Today’s payroll tax conference agreement will provide $1,000 in the pockets of more than 160 million Americans and ensure that approximately 3.5 million Americans will continue to benefit from much needed unemployment insurance. We have also protected seniors’ ability to see their doctors with an SGR fix through the end of the year.

Despite these critical provisions, this is a difficult vote to take. I am greatly disappointed over how these extensions are offset. First, the unemployment extension is paid for on the backs of middle class Federal workers. These hardworking men and women continue to be targeted in this Congress – but yet they are not the reason for our nation’s deficits. Meanwhile, my Republican colleagues refuse to require the wealthiest few to pay their fair share.

Secondly, the SGR fix is being paid for with critical health care dollars. In fact, the bill slashes one of the most important investments this country has ever made in preventive health. That is extremely short-sighted. We cannot continue down that path or we will never address the real cost concerns of our health care system.

Sadly, the bill also manages to cut from one provider – hospitals and nursing homes – to help pay for another – physicians. We cannot rob Peter to pay Paul and our health care system cannot sustain further provider cuts. Meanwhile, there is still no permanent solution to an ongoing SGR problem that cannot continue to be kicked down the road again.

I will vote in favor of this bill, but I do so with grave reservations. Thank you.

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Filed under Congressman Frank Pallone, House Floor statement, Medicare, payroll tax, tax cuts, unemployment benefits

Rush Holt: How to Apply for Hurricane Disaster Assistance

If you suffered losses from Hurricane Irene, you have probably had a difficult week of clean-up and recovery. Although you may still have hard work ahead, your country stands ready to help you: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared all 21 counties in New Jersey to be natural disaster areas, which means that you are now eligible to apply for federal disaster assistance.

If you incurred any uninsured costs because of Hurricane Irene – such as the costs to pump water out of your basement, to replace a water heater, to stay in temporary housing, or even the cost of unemployment while your office was flooded – I encourage you to apply, even if you are not sure whether you are eligible.

The first step in the disaster relief process is to register with the FEMA as soon as possible. You may register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY/TDD 1-800-462-7585 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

It is critical that you document your losses and any expenses incurred in your recovery. Take pictures of any damaged belongings, and keep your receipts for any repairs. Although documenting your losses does not guarantee your eligibility for relief funds, the documentation may be required by FEMA or your homeowner’s insurance company.

If your insurance policy carries a separate, higher deductible for hurricane-related damage, there is good news. The New Jersey State Department of Banking and Insurance has determined that Irene was a tropical storm – and not a hurricane – at the time of its landfall in New Jersey, so your insurer may not charge you the higher hurricane deductible.

Although not all families will be eligible for all disaster relief programs, federal assistance may include:

  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for two months for homeowners and renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.
  • Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks from the date of the disaster declaration for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
  • Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million.
  • Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.

Other relief programs include counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; and advisory assistance for legal matters, veterans benefits, and Social Security. In the future, additional money will be provided to the state to prevent future disasters, and I will continue to share information with you on the availability of these and other funds.

By way of reminder, the first step in applying for any of these programs is registering with FEMA at www.disasterassistance.gov. Once you have registered, you will have access to further information and applications for the programs listed above.

Please do not hesitate to call me at 1-87-RUSH-HOLT (1-877-874-4658) if you have questions. I hope that you and your family are safe and are making steady progress down the road to recovery.

Sincerely,

Rush Holt
Member of Congress

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Filed under Congressman Rush Holt, disaster assistance, FEMA, Hurricane Irene, Social Security, unemployment benefits

President Obama’s Weekly Address 8/6/11: Creating Jobs and Getting All Americans Back to Work

WASHINGTON—In this week’s address, President Obama called on Democrats and Republicans to work together to grow the economy and get Americans back to work. The President has outlined a number of steps Congress can take right now to spur growth and create jobs, including extending tax cuts for working and middle class families, cutting red tape to encourage new businesses to grow and hire, passing trade deals that will support tens of thousands of jobs, and giving our out-of-work construction workers opportunities to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.

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Filed under arab spring, bipartisanship, Congress, deficit reduction, economy, infrastructure, Job creation, Middle Class, President Obama, tax cuts, trade deals, unemployment benefits, Verterans, weekly address

>President Obama’s Weekly Address: Tax Cuts & Unemployment Insurance

>With President Obama visiting troops in Afghanistan, Vice President Biden says Congress must extend both the middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance for the sake of those families and the broader economy.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under Afghanistan, Bush Tax Cuts, economy, middle-class tax cuts, President Obama, unemployment benefits, Vice-President Joe Biden, weekly address

>NJPP Monday Minute 11/1/10: Employee benefit funds in question

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With unemployment levels nationwide hovering at just below double digits for more than a year now, the focus on unemployment insurance (UI) benefits has never been more intense.

One of the items at the top of the to-do list when Congress returns for its lame duck session later this month will be consideration of another extension of federal-state UI benefits. Supporters say an extension is necessary because unemployment levels have been so high for so long. Opponents argue that cutting off UI benefits will push the unemployed to find a job, any job. One candidate for the U.S. Senate in Nevada told the Los Angeles Times, “You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that doesn’t pay so much but is an honest job.”

Let’s be clear: unemployment insurance benefits are not lottery winnings. A UI check is an earned benefit from a trust fund that both workers and employers pay into to protect workers when they are unemployed. UI benefits equal 60 percent of a worker’s previous wages up to a maximum weekly payment that varies by state.

In 2009, nationally, UI benefits kept 3.3 million people, including 1 million children, out of poverty. In New Jersey, 414,600 workers are currently receiving benefits. Unemployed workers receive up to 26 weeks of state unemployment payments and then may be eligible to collect federal unemployment benefits for another 90 weeks or more.

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the maximum UI benefit in 2010 in New Jersey is $600 a week but the average benefit is $397 per week. Twelfth District congressional candidate Scott Sipprelle has publicly suggested that benefits are too high and should be lower than minimum wage-about $290 a week for 40 hours of work. At $15,080 a year, that is about $6,000 below what the federal government estimates a family of four needs to live in New Jersey.

The UI benefit was created in 1935 in response to the Great Depression, a time when up to 25 percent of the workforce was unemployed; when people were regularly losing their homes to foreclosures; when Americans were migrating across the country looking for work and shanty towns, called Hoovervilles. Hungry and homeless unemployed people were forced to rely on charities, churches, good-hearted neighbors and strangers to survive.

The circumstances preceding the creation of UI are described In the US Department of Labor’s, Beginning the Unemployment Insurance Program – An Oral History: 1935-1985: “In the welfare field the States and local governments, which had been handling the unemployed as well as welfare cases, didn’t have any unemployment insurance. There wasn’t any kind of help for these people; a lot of them were absolutely helpless. They stayed in their homes; couldn’t pay rent. Housing went to pot. The whole economy just went to a disaster. What happened then is that the local authorities began to come to Washington and say, ‘Can’t you do something down here to help us.'”

In his book, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, Studs Terkel reported Roosevelt official Gardiner Means’ 1933 account of how UI reflected a change in thinking brought about by the extreme economic crisis faced by millions in the country: “People agreed that old things didn’t work. What ran through the whole New Deal was finding a way to make things work. Before that, Hoover would loan money to farmers to keep their mules alive, but wouldn’t loan money to keep their children alive. This was perfectly right within the framework of classical thinking. If an individual couldn’t get enough to eat, it was because he wasn’t on the ball. It was his responsibility. The New Deal said: Anybody who is unemployed isn’t necessarily unemployed because he’s shiftless.”

The present day equivalent of bread lines and shanty towns are homeless shelters and community food banks. The Star-Ledger reported earlier in October that New Jersey food banks are seeing a 46 percent increase in demand.

Unemployment insurance is a vital safety net that supports families and allows them to meet their basic needs. In good times New Jersey and many other states used the program’s funds to balance the state budget. These diversions started in 1993 and mostly ended by 2006, but by then much damage had been done. In March 2009, the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services said the state’s UI fund was completely depleted. Restoring the funds solvency required the state to either increase contribution rates or borrow from the federal government. New Jersey chose to borrow.

These funding maneuvers have led to a ballot question which tomorrow will allow voters to express their opinion about these practices. Ballot Question #1 asks whether the state constitution should be amended to prohibit the state from using any employee benefits funds (including UI, paid family leave, temporary disability and workers compensation) for purposes other than paying benefits to workers. Both unions and businesses recommend voting “yes”on the question. Voting in favor of the question will provide constitutional protection for these funds but will add further complexity to the constitution and tie public officials’ hands in the future. It’s a complicated question with no easy answer. Tomorrow voters will provide an answer.

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Filed under Ballot Questions, Great Depression, Monday Minute, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, pension fund, unemployment benefits

>Rep. Holt Decries Opponent’s Call for Lowering Unemployment Benefits to Below Minimum Wage

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Press Release

September 14, 2010 – 12:00pm

Opponent Believes Unemployed Lack Motivation to Find Work

TRENTON: U.S. Representative Rush Holt today decried Wall Street Hedge Fund Manager and congressional opponent Scott Sipprelle for proposing to lower unemployment benefits to below minimum wage as a means to force people to look for work. Economists recognize that unemployment benefits help not only the individuals that receive benefits but also help society at large by preventing those laid off from becoming burdens on social services. Unemployment benefits also create, dollar for dollar, the greatest positive benefit on the economy in the short term.

“Essentially, Mr. Sipprelle thinks people on unemployment are making too much money,” said Representative Holt. “My opponent thinks people who lose their job won’t be motivated to look for work unless we cut their unemployment benefits to an unlivable amount. The contempt that Mr. Sipprelle has for the people he claims to want to represent is staggering.”

On July 19th of this year, Mr. Sipprelle wrote in his campaign e-newsletter that we should “set the level of unemployment benefits at a modest discount to the minimum wage so that no one receives more for not working than they do for working. This will accelerate the adjustment of laid-off workers to the reality of today’s labor markets without pulling a prop out from under the truly needy who cannot find work.”

Joining Representative Holt were Dr. Keith Dewey of Lawerenceville and Mr. Gavin Brown of Ewing, residents of the 12th district who are currently seeking full time employment. They each shared their own individual story with regard to unemployment and benefits, discussing how they have been actively seeking work and do not need a reduction in benefits to motivate them.

Many of the nation’s leading economists have stressed the importance of unemployment benefits and how they actually stimulate economic growth. Mark Zandi, economic advisor to John McCain and Chief Economist for Moody’s, stated earlier this year that, “No form of the fiscal stimulus has proved more effective during the past two years than emergency UI benefits, providing a bang for the buck of 1.61—that is, for every $1 in UI benefits, GDP one year later is increased by an estimated $1.61…”[i]

Zandi has also pointed out that “…UI benefits are among the most potent forms of economic stimulus available…Most unemployed workers spend their benefits immediately; and without such extra help, laid-off workers and their families have little choice but to slash their spending. The loss of benefits is debilitating not only for unemployed workers, but also for friends, family, and neighbors who may have been providing financial help themselves.” (See Blinder and Zandi paper “How the Great Recession was Brought to an End at http://www.economy.com/mark-zandi/documents/End-of-Great-Recession.pdf)

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has stated that “Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus.”[ii]

Heather Boushey, Senior Economist for the Center for American Progress, has stated that “…These benefits help unemployed workers and their families cope with abruptly lost incomes until they can find a new job while also aiding the economic recovery by helping families maintain spending in their communities, which in turn preserves jobs for employed Americans…”[iii]

Representative Holt also discussed his efforts to assist those on unemployment and create jobs. These include introducing the Online Job Training Act (H.R. 146) to bolster the availability of home-based training programs, supporting the enactment of up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits for 3.5 million Americans – 230,000 New Jersey residents – who are looking for work and who have exhausted their 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits, and supporting $40 million to help workers enter careers in emerging green industries.

For more information regarding Representative Rush Holt and his fight for the people of the 12th district, please call 609-799-0800 or log on to www.rushholt.com.

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Filed under Congressman Rush Holt, Job Training, press release, Scott Sipprelle, unemployment benefits

The Record: A small step

The following editorial ran in The Record today. It highlights Governor Corzine’s plan to help those who have run out or will be running out of unemployment benefits by encouraging state businesses to hire people whose unemployment benefits have run out, by using money from federal discretionary funds and the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

For 79 weeks, laid-off workers can collect unemployment benefits. That means the government will offer some financial help while day after day, week after week, people make cold calls, network, send out résumés, go to job interviews and then start the process over again.

The benefits won’t make anyone rich, but they help — 60 percent of a person’s average wage, not to exceed $584 a week. Then, after more than a year, after all that searching for work and still no job, unemployment insurance comes to an end.

It has stopped for more than 45,000 workers in New Jersey, at least 3,500 each week. That is scary.

On Tuesday, Governor Corzine announced a plan meant to encourage state businesses to hire people whose unemployment benefits have run out. Using money from federal discretionary funds, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development will give $2,400 to employers who hire those workers for jobs paying at least $15 an hour. The funds are to help cover the cost of training.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people will benefit.

This is a creative and worthwhile course of action. It lets people in desperate circumstances know that state government is aware of their predicament, and is trying to help. It offers hope during an especially bleak period. And it allows companies a cushion with which to take a risk.

“Whatever the governor is doing today is literally a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie said Tuesday. “This is not going to create sustainable jobs for the people of the state of New Jersey.”

Christie called the plan an “election-year photo op.”

He may be right that Corzine’s effort will not provide jobs to everyone in the same boat, but that is almost beside the point. It will provide jobs for some. And for those people, however many, it will make all the difference. Better to employ several thousand then do nothing at all.

The measure stipulates that the newly hired workers cannot replace other workers, and they must be employed for at least six months. So even if, for some reason, an employee loses the job after half a year, that will have been half a year of earning an income, of going to work each day and of learning a new skill or keeping up with skills. It also means another job to put on the resume.

As for this being an election-year stunt, that seems rather dramatic. Corzine will not win reelection because 3,000 to 4,000 newly employed voters pull the Democratic lever in appreciation.

The federal government has extended unemployment insurance payments twice, and then paid for another stretch, prolonging the state’s 26 weeks to the current 79. Yet people still can’t find work. Bills go unpaid. A health problem or unforeseen car repair can upset whatever delicate financial equilibrium there was. Families lose homes.

Recent census data reveals that last year citizens in deep poverty — people whose income dropped below half the federal poverty line — reached the highest level in 14 years. That means a family of four earned $11,013 or less. The number of poor was the highest since 1960.

If Christie has a better idea, if he has a way to scoop up even half the workers in New Jersey who have exhausted unemployment benefits and plunk them into new jobs, we are eager to hear it.

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Filed under Chris Christie, Gov. Jon Corzine, New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, The Record, unemployment, unemployment benefits