99ers Urge GOP Leaders to Pass 14-Week Unemployment Extension

COMMENTARY | There has been a call to action by the American 99ers Union, a long-term jobless advocacy organization, for its members and supporters to assist in gaining passage for the latest unemployment benefits extension plan. The exhortation calls for individuals to contact not only the Republican leadership in the House, who recently agreed to meet with Democrats in a bipartisan effort to come to some form of accord on the 99er issue, but also all elected officials who could bring their voices to bear on the issue.

At stake? A 14-week addition to the first tier of the unemployment extensions, one that doesn’t increase red tape and allows for the retroactive application of 99ers, those who have exhausted all other forms of regular and extension unemployment benefits.

The American 99ers Union posted to their website a plan to contact elected legislators on March 28 and 29. They called on proponents, supporters, and members to phone, email, post to Twitter, and fax Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an effort to convince them of the dire need for the proposed legislation, HR589, to make it through the House, its one major roadblock.

HR589, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2011, was given new life in February when Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) reintroduced the legislation (which she and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) first introduced to the House in December). With a nod toward the Republicans’ new rules about proposing new programs with offsetting spending cuts in the fiscal budget, Lee and her like-minded colleagues announced in early March that they would find ways to pay for the $16 billion bill in order to make it more palatable to the GOP. In turn, Boehner and Cantor agreed to a meeting in which to discuss the future of the bill and perhaps find ways of compromise to facilitate its passage.

The American 99ers Union’s call to action tells those inclined to advocacy to ” please be willing to a) look for FUNDING for this bill by thinking outside the box; and b) be willing to “strike a deal” with Republicans, to give them something they want (a vote perhaps?), in order to get them to vote for this bill which millions need in order to survive because there still are not enough jobs and many of us are being foreclosed on and evicted with nowhere to go!”

The “Take Action” page also supplies the prospective advocate a letter with which to approach the elected officials.

But there is reason to believe that the 99er situation is growing more desperate. A Congressional Research Survey placed the official number of 99ers at 1.4 million individuals in October. Five months later, with tens of thousands of the unemployed falling from the ranks of the benefits-receiving unemployed and the concurrent stagnation in the jobs market, that number is believed to be presently closer to 2 million.

It is also believed that the “official” count is several million lower than the actual number of 99ers, which estimates place at between 3 and 7 million.

And that number is expected to rise by at least another 3-4 million individuals by year’s end as more people remain jobless and fall from the unemployment extension rolls.

Although the call to action’s push to show support for HR589 ends on March 29, it should be noted that contacting legislators in support of the measure or of the 99ers in general can be carried out afterward. It is still uncertain when the actual meeting of Democrats and Republicans will take place, or even if anything positive will be accomplished during their meeting.

But there is hope…

Saul Relative holds degrees in History and Secondary Education, and he taught school in West Virginia in the ’80s and Virginia during the ’90s. A student of politics and political movements, he began writing articles covering the political maneuverings of the Bush administration in 2004. Saul turned to writing full-time in 2008, dividing his time between reading and writing about politics and entertainment.