States Leave $3 Billion In Unemployment Benefits On The Table

Leading the news today is the story that more than $3.1 billion in stimulus money set aside for jobless benefits has been yet unclaimed, because 23 states haven’t expanded their benefits to take advantage of the funds. This money could help almost 350,000 unemployed, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a workers’ advocacy group.

The funds are meant to cover up to seven years of benefits, but the states that haven’t expanded their programs are reluctant to do so because of worries about what will happen when the seven years run out—higher taxes, say Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

States can get a third of the money set aside by easing the rules on the length of time someone must have been employed before they can get benefits. The rest comes if the states provide at least two of four kinds of unemployment benefits: for part-time workers, for those in training programs, for those who quit because of “compelling family circumstances” or extra money for a worker’s dependents.