President Obama is scheduled today to put his signature to HR 3548, the unemployment extension bill that's been struggling to make its way out of Congress for over a month. Thousands of unemployed Americans will applaud this move by Congress and the White House. Despite the protracted process of getting the bill through the Senate after an initial version was passed in the House, this is much-needed legislation that will help unemployed Americans whose benefits have or will run out in all 50 states.
Unemployment is now at 10.2% nationwide and shows no sign of decreasing anytime soon. Tens of thousands of job losses are expected.
In high employment states, for people receiving the maximum 20-week extension (instead of the standard nationwide 14 weeks), unemployed workers could potentially receive up to 99 weeks of benefits. That's just under two years of unemployment benefits; a gigantic total. This would be the highest ever.
Also included in this bill is an extension of the homebuyer tax credit to April 2010. The bill totals $24 billion in economic stimulus through these programs.
The more than $21 billion cost of the homebuyer tax credits would be paid for largely by delaying a tax break for multinational companies that pay foreign taxes.
The cost of the unemployment benefit extension, about $2.4 billion, is offset by extending a federal unemployment tax that employers must pay.