99er Frequently Asked Questions Answered

Posted on March 9, 2011 by


Here are just a few of the many questions frequently asked about 99ers.  If there are questions/answers that you feel should be included in this FAQ, please feel free to add them as comments below.

Why don’t 99ers stop “whining” and just get a job?

There are over 13 million unemployed Americans desperately searching for jobs that don’t exist.  Almost half have been looking for work for more than 6 months.  Jobs are scarce.  The last count showed there were only 3.1 million job openings in the US.  If every open position was filled, there would still be well over 10 million Americans looking for work who could not get a job. This “official” unemployment number does not even include the 8+ million Americans currently involuntarily working part-time, underemployed or the millions of 99ers who aren’t being counted at all. Every job opening in America is fiercely sought after.  This crisis situation is aggravated for 99ers by employers discriminating against the already unemployed and those over 45 (a significant proportion of 99ers).

Isn’t extending benefits keeping people from working, making them lazy?

This is insulting and infuriating. Millions of 99ers apply to job after job, they are flexible, willing to move, willing to be retrained if that will help them get a job, many have been retrained and still can’t get a job.  The unemployed desperately want to work. They would much rather have a job than benefits, but the jobs lost in the crisis just haven’t come back yet.  America has set new post war records for those unemployed for more than 27 weeks, that’s why Congress created a lifeline by extending benefits for American families caught in the jobs crisis.  The latest census showed that unemployment benefits saved 3.3 million from poverty.

Isn’t it true that the longer you pay people not to work, the longer they are not going to try and work?

The problem is they can’t find jobs, and since they can’t find jobs they need the minimal support that unemployment benefits provide. The average weekly insurance payment is $310–a small sum that makes a huge difference and allows people to keep looking for work instead of looking for handouts. Congress should design a lifeline that lasts as long as the unemployment rate continues to be unacceptably high.

Isn’t paying down the debt more important than helping the 99ers?

A NELP poll from late 2010 asked if it was important that at a time when employment is still so high that we continue to provide benefits for the unemployed or is it that we just can’t afford to keep spending and we have to bring down the debt?  Over 75% said to continue the unemployment benefits.  But the truth is that isn’t the trade off that we have to make as a nation.  The fact is that if we don’t continue to provide for the unemployed workers, their families and their communities, the debt is going to grow even higher.  What we need to do about the debt is create jobs and until we can create enough jobs to support workers who need them, who want them, then we have to continue supporting the families, because that is how the economy is stimulated.  Unemployment benefits are the best kind of immediate stimulus.  Tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting jobs are the least form of stimulus.

How are we going to pay for this?

Only recently (since the last election and the emergence of the Tea Party) has the federal government been paying this much attention to its spending rates. The main solution pushed by Republicans is austerity. Their message is that cuts to spending will cure all the nation’s economic woes.  But America is not broke. The country is awash in wealth and cash, so much so it can continue to choose to spend $700 million a day just to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is, there’s lots of money to go around. Today in America just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.  They have bought and paid for the media as well as hundreds of politicians and economists across the country to spread a message that will keep the wealth and power in their hands.  They are the ones currently deciding what the nation’s money is spent on.    So, while teachers, firefighters and police lose their jobs, while basic assistance programs are slashed for the poor, children and the elderly, while some 3 million people are pushed from their homes by foreclosures and bank repossessions, while nothing is done to help the millions of desperate 99ers who cannot find work, and while 25% of American children are now at poverty level,  the wealthy continue to get tax cuts and fill their bank accounts with America’s money.