In Ohio, eligible unemployed workers can receive weekly benefit payments that are approximately 50 percent of their average weekly wage, up to certain maximum amounts, for a period of 26 weeks — that is, half a year. The federal government then offers emergency unemployment compensation which provides additional payments to eligible unemployed workers that can continue payments for more than a year after the worker becomes unemployed. Since the beginning of this year, Congress has enacted, and President Obama has signed, legislation to further extend the unemployment compensation payments, to as much as 99 weeks — only a few weeks shy of two full years of benefits. As the California Employment Development Department website notes, the 99-week period is “unprecedented” in our country’s history.
The extended benefits — as well as the $25 weekly supplement paid by the “stimulus” legislation, and the COBRA subsidies for unemployed workers — are set to expire on June 2. Legislation has been introduced to further extend the extended unemployment payments, and certain workers groups are lobbying for Congress to extend the benefits through the end of 2010. Such an extension would mean that workers could receive nearly two and a half years of benefit payments.
Should Congress grant such an extension? I do not think you can continue, indefinitely, to pay people for not working. Such payments inevitably must reduce the incentive to look hard for a job. Furthermore, two years seems like an ample period of time for someone who is truly motivated to find a new job and, if they live in an especially depressed area, to move to a place where jobs can be had. The line must be drawn somewhere, and now seems like a good time to draw the line — particularly with the concerns that are arising from our debt situation and the out-of-control debt situations in places like Greece.