Amid the deluge of news this weekend about the unemployment benefit extension fight in the U.S. Senate, an important point has been lost in the coverage. To understand the nuances, you need some quick background:
The federal benefits currently being received by millions of unemployed Americans are known as "Emergency Unemployment Compensation." As Mike Lillis explains, last year's stimulus bill established the first two tiers of EUC benefits and Congress has since added two more. An individual who has moved through all four tiers will have received 53 weeks of EUC aid on top of the benefits they originally received from their state.
Because they are only doled out during economic "emergencies," Congress sets a filing deadline, after which no one can move on to the next tier once their current benefits are exhausted. The proposal before the Senate last week would have extended the latest deadline (Feb. 28) by a month, and thereby allowed the millions in the lower tiers to apply for additional benefits. By failing to do so, they've put 65,000 Illinoisans at risk of losing their benefits during March.
What's important to note, however, is that the bill wouldn't have created an additional tier of benefits and therefore wouldn't have made any difference for those long-term unemployed workers who are nearing the end of the fourth tier of benefits. Thanks to Lillis for reminding us of this distinction.