Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2014

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workplace column:

Jobless benefits are extended

Every few days, a good friend calls or texts me to find out if unemployment benefits have been extended yet.

And every time, I tell her, “Not yet.”

She is not a news junkie, nor one who follows politics, but the prospect of extended benefits had her tuning in, hoping that she would receive financial help she desperately needs.

My friend is just one of millions of Americans who are jobless and depend on unemployment benefits.

Her benefits ran out awhile ago, and she has been living off her disability payments, which are less than half what she would collect on unemployment (she is in a wheelchair). She’s had several interviews, but hasn’t landed a job. I worry she has fallen into the underreported “discouraged worker” category, a number that isn’t included in the monthly jobless figures.

Because of her disability, she lives with her father, who has been collecting jobless benefits for a few months now after he was let go from his job.

They struggle to pay their mortgage and hope a loan modification will help them stay in their condo.

When she heard the Senate unanimously passed a bill to extend jobless benefits 20 weeks for people whose benefits had run out, she was, to state the obvious, relieved and sent me a text.

“The bill passed!!! Yay!”

The next day, the House approved the bill 403 to 12, with all of our Nevada representatives voting in favor of it. President Barack Obama signed the bill Nov. 6.

Here is how the bill is supposed to work:

If someone whose 79 weeks of jobless benefits ran out this year and they have yet to get a job, they are eligible for another 14 weeks of benefits. For those in Nevada and states where the unemployment rate is above 8.5 percent, they are eligible for an additional six weeks for a total of 20 weeks.

When the economy is not in the dumps, laid-off workers can collect jobless benefits for 26 weeks. Because of the recession, the benefits, excluding this latest extension, are available for 79 weeks.

Benefits were also increased by $25 a week.

The average weekly benefit payment is $300 a week, with $400 being the maximum.

My friend hopes to be one of the 8,000 people the state says it will be notifying about applying for the extension. The extension is good until the end of the year.

Right now 119,000 people receive jobless benefits in Nevada, according to the state. Of those, 63,000 are in their first 26 weeks of jobless benefits, while the other 54,000 are receiving an extended benefit payment.

• • •

The increased payroll surtax employers are paying (up to 6.2 percent from 6.0 percent) has been extended another year. It was supposed to revert to 6 percent in 2010, but employers will be paying 6.2 percent through 2011.

• • •

The national jobless rate hit 10.2 percent in October, a 26-year high. The last time the unemployment rate hit this level was in April 1982, when the economy was rebounding from a recession with a jobless rate that peaked at 10.8 percent.

Suit drive a success

United Way’s Women Leadership Council collected 2,553 suits and professional women’s attire Nov. 6 during its annual suit drive. The majority of the clothing came from individuals.

The clothing was distributed to Shade Tree, Safe Nest, Safe House and Goodwill Career Connection.

A salute to our veterans

I would like to say “Thank you” to our men and women who have served the U.S. throughout our history on this Veterans Day.

Friend, can you spare a buck?

Sunrise Coffee and vegan Chef Mayra are hosting a fundraiser for Adopt-a-Rescue-Pet on Nov. 13. The no-kill rescue and sanctuary is strapped for cash, and is close to shutting down, endangering the lives of the 350 animals it’s caring for.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at Sunrise Coffee, 3130 E. Sunset Road, and all of the sales will go to the sanctuary.

Mayra will be preparing Caribbean and Southwest fusion cuisine.

Cost is $20, cash-only.

And don’t forget ...

Adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary.

Visit adoptaturkey.org. It makes a thoughtful holiday gift. And you don’t have to find a place to keep the bird.

Nicole Lucht covers health care, workplace, energy and banking issues for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached at 259-8832 or at [email protected]

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