Missouri to drop extended benefits for unemployed

Thursday, March 31, 2011 | 3:48 p.m. CDT
Peter Gordon poses for a photo in his St. Louis apartment on Thursday. Gordon, who has been out of work for a year, could lose his unemployment benefits in coming months because of efforts by several Republican Missouri state senators to block the use of an estimated $105 million of federal unemployment benefits.

JEFFERSON CITY — Thousands of people in Missouri who have been unemployed for more than a year soon will lose their jobless benefits, marking a significant victory for Republican fiscal hawks who are crusading against government spending.

When eligibility ends Saturday, Missouri will become the only state to voluntarily quit a federal stimulus program that offers extended benefits. Michigan, Arkansas and Florida also recently took steps to cut back on money going to the unemployed, although they targeted state benefits instead.


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"We have to take a stand and say 'When is enough enough?' and send a message to the federal government, and hopefully shame them into doing the right thing and quit spending money that they don't have," said state Sen. Jim Lembke, a Republican from St. Louis.

Lembke has led a coalition of four filibustering senators who have blocked legislation necessary to reauthorize Missouri's participation in a federal program offering long-term unemployment benefits. It's been a stunning setback for a bill that had passed the Republican-led House 123-14 two months ago and had the support of GOP Senate leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

As a result, more than 34,000 unemployed residents in Missouri could miss out on $105 million in benefits over the next nine months. Unlike some other stimulus programs, Missouri's unclaimed money would not be redistributed by the federal government to other states. It simply would remain unspent.

At issue is a provision in the 2009 federal stimulus act that allowed residents in states with high unemployment rates to receive up to 20 additional weeks of federally funded jobless benefits after exhausting the 79 weeks authorized under other federal laws. At least three dozen states, including Missouri, enacted laws to participate.

Although their unemployment rates were high enough to qualify, seven other states — Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah — never passed laws to join in, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Maryland is now pursuing participation, but many of the other states seem content to remain out of the program. Much like his Missouri counterparts, Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups said the states need to set an example of self-sufficiency.

"Somebody has to start pulling back from the federal government somewhere," said Waddoups, a Republican from Taylorsville, Utah.

That federal backlash is particularly strong in Missouri, where voters were the first in the nation to pass a measure challenging the new federal health care mandate and where Republican senators are holding up federal stimulus money for education.

Missouri's unemployment rate has remained above 9 percent for nearly two years. Yet, it is poised to become the first state to take the additional federal unemployment money, then later voluntarily stop doing so, according to officials at the federal Labor Department and the National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocacy group for employment rights that has been urging Missouri to remain in the program.

Several other states could have been in the same situation. But the governors of Massachusetts, Michigan and Oregon all signed laws within the past week continuing participation. Michigan's action came with a catch, also cutting state jobless benefits from 26 to 20 weeks starting in 2012. The Florida House has passed a similar state benefits reduction. Arkansas' legislature this week gave final approval to a bill shaving off one week of eligibility for state jobless benefits.

In Missouri, about 10,000 people would immediately be cut off from additional jobless payments, according to the state Department of Labor. And extended unemployment benefits would be denied to about 24,000 additional residents who otherwise are projected to become eligible.

St. Louis resident Peter Gordon, who has been unemployed for a little more than a year, is among those who could miss out. A former patient care coordinator at a hearing aid company, Gordon has been searching for jobs over the Internet but said he can't travel far because he can't afford to license his car. He fears he could eventually be evicted from his apartment.

"They can provide money for government programs to take care of the elite and rich," Gordon said. "But when it comes to a small person like me — people who are just trying to make ends meet — it seems like the rights are being taken away."

Kimberly Clark, a laid-off union organizer, says her post-tax unemployment benefit of $275 a week already is consumed by her rent, utility and phone bills. She's been searching for work since November 2009, and she's only a couple of months away from needing the extended benefits that Missouri is poised to reject.

"The mentality is we're just creating a bunch of lazy people, and that is not true," said Clark, 48, of St. Louis.

The National Employment Law Project says its supporters sent 15,000 e-mails in a roughly 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday urging Missouri senators to allow a vote on the legislation reauthorizing the extended jobless benefits.

But Sen. Brian Nieves, a Republican from Washington, Mo., who is popular among tea party activists, said he has no intention of compromising his position.

"The people have been crystal clear for about the last two years in saying that they expect us to at least start the process of weaning ourselves off of the federal government," Nieves said.

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Jacqueline Patton March 31, 2011 | 4:28 p.m.

For Shame, For Shame! why do these people have to constantly be reminded that those of us that have no booth straps have no booths to pull ourselves up. To deny benefits to thousands who are unemployed because they feel its time for the american unemployed workers to go back to work, well I say give them jobs!!!!! Or haven't they heard the job market is ridiculous right now, there are very very limited jobs out here, and if you don't know someone in a key position you;re just out of luck. I do believe we will remember this come election time. And please no smart remarks like go to McDonalds, if you haven't heard those are all taken as well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick March 31, 2011 | 4:51 p.m.

This is plain ignorance by certain Republican senators who think accepting federal money is wrong. Guess what gang? It's perfectly fine to accept federal money. Unless you plan to replace federal money with state money or better yet, get up off your Republican butts and start creating jobs don't deny people the pittance they get from federal unemployment money.
The Tea Party has its head up its ass too far. Reality does not exist for them in their cuckoo world. Their narrow minded vision for America fails to address the concerns of the working poor. That's why their support is declining at a rapid rate. People are seeing that the Tea Party's stance is not viable for America.
Stop filibustering. If my congressmen from Northeast Missouri were involved with this idiotic act my foot would be up their ass.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 31, 2011 | 6:09 p.m.

Climbing the political ladder by stepping on the backs of your constituents.


(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush March 31, 2011 | 6:23 p.m.

Cost of one B-2 Bomber - $2.5 billion dollars (
Cost of unemployment benefits for residents of Missouri over 9 months - $105 million. (

Socialism for the rich - bootstraps for the poor. How much can they rob the system for it to be classified a white collar crime - this is class warfare. It's class warfare. (With apologies to Chris Priest).

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 31, 2011 | 6:36 p.m.

Well said, GB.

(Report Comment)
Nelson Richter March 31, 2011 | 7:30 p.m.

At what point do we say enough is enough; the GOP that I used to vote with has been high-jacked by the extreme right with such draconian cuts; they talk of job creation and improving the economy but only work on social issues. What does Sen. Jim Lembke expect these people to do? I read of research done on the health of counties in Missouri and saw that the boot heel region is the most unhealthy-any thoughts as to how poverty relates to health. I am sorry but I believe that Sen. Lembke cares more about helping businesses and corporations make money than the does about the citizens of Missouri. It is time to become an educated voter, then turn out in huge numbers to restore common sense and decency to our government.

(Report Comment)
Robert Stinnett March 31, 2011 | 7:47 p.m.

You get what you vote for. I never vote a straight party ticket - and I have voted for my share of Republicans over the years. I always vote for the best person who I think will represent the people the best and my interests.

Therein lies the problem. For the past decade or so we have had people voting not for what is in their best interests, but because of "push button" issues. Gay marriage and abortion are the top 2 that come to mind. I've lived in primarily Republican areas where many of the people constantly voted against their best interests. Over and over again.

In the past, though, people were fed with an eyedropper things that benefited them while being robbed blind by these folks they elected. Republicans (and a few Democrats, lets be honest) threw out the bones and scraps to the people while lining their pockets and bank accounts with massive amounts of cash from special interests and those with money. Times have now changed and they finally realized that hey, they don't need the people anymore - the special interest groups and big daddy warbucks will keep them in office. They just need to scream "Gay Marriage" or "Abortion" every 4 years and they get re-elected. They don't even have to throw out scraps to the people anymore.

So this is what you get in the end - exactly what you voted for. $105 million is absolutely, positively nothing in the grand scheme of things to the Federal Govt. Yet to these folks who have been unemployed for extended periods of times it is everything - it's their last, desperate hold on survival.

What this article failed to mention is that Sen. Jim Lembke seems to think, and has stated, that unemployment makes people not want to work. I don't know about you - but you show me one person who doesn't want to work in this economy. I know friends who have tried in vain for well over a year, sending out thousands of resumes and not so much as a crumb. This despicable man made a comment yesterday that he personally knew "two companies with $10 and $15 an hour jobs who can't find people". Yet when called by several reporters to get the names of the companies he said he was declining to answer. Now, let me get this straight, these companies are desperate for workers and apparently can't find anyone but you are "declining" to give out who they are. In other words - they don't exist. He got caught in a lie.

I personally don't know how someone like that can sleep at night -- but then again, when you have a roof over your head and a bank account flush with money why care about others?

The only way you are going to stop this folks is to vote for your (and societies) best interests. If you keep voting on gay marriage and abortion then things are going to get much, much worse.

And remember - any one of us could be unemployed at any time. Before you mock those who are unemployed I caution you to pause and think. Nobody's job is guaranteed and nobody is irreplaceable.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 31, 2011 | 8:33 p.m.

How many B-2's has the state legislature built, anyway? Must have missed that news nugget.

Having been a longtime heartless conservative b*stard myself, may I pose a philosophical question: should the term of eligibility for unemployment benefits be indefinite?

Granted, I do not get why they would decline fed funds already allocated. I understand the principle of trying to get back to some degree of fiscal discipline. But there are other, more worthy, more sensible fights to pick along that line, rather than this one.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 31, 2011 | 9:16 p.m.

The state giveth, and the state taketh away.

Blessed is the power of the state!

Alternate version: Give your soul to the Lord, because your a** already belongs to the state (and is therefore not available for you to give).

(Report Comment)
David Sautner April 1, 2011 | 6:17 a.m.

"Welcome to Missouri: The Stupid State"

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall April 1, 2011 | 8:26 a.m.

Oh yeah. Punish the folks at the bottom of the latter who are struggling to put food on the table and survive from week to week. That's the way to go.

Maybe some of these smug politicians need to actually LIVE on unemployment benefits for awhile and see what kind of luxury lifestyle it gives them. My bet? They make more money in a week than most of the folks they are taking benefits from make in a year...

(Report Comment)
Dave Overfelt April 1, 2011 | 8:29 a.m.

Tony, no, benefits should not be indefinite, which is a funny thing, because they are not. Benefits are conditionally extended to the long term unemployed as a stop gap measure to prevent things like homelessness in the face of the worst job market in a long, long, long time.

If the concern is about money we give away, then why not close the corporate tax loopholes? Many major corporations like GE GOT PAID instead of paying taxes over the last several years. The tax that GE SHOULD have paid would easily have covered all of Missouri's long term unemployed for another 20 weeks.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 1, 2011 | 10:47 a.m.

Why should GE have paid tax last year? I got a refund last year? Should it have been confiscated for someone else's unemployment benefits? And yeah, I've been unemployed twice and had no desire to stay in such a state.

(Report Comment)
SomeoneWho Cares April 1, 2011 | 11:33 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Gregg Bush April 1, 2011 | 1:34 p.m.

"How many B-2's has the state legislature built, anyway? Must have missed that news nugget."
Tony, that is a fake equivalency. The $105 million are federal dollars. Carrying water for the hoarders is pathetic. And disingenuity is pitiful.

"Granted, I do not get why they would decline fed funds already allocated."

Suburban Republicans are the backbone of the wrecking crew - "pro-business" politicians who believe that government is a competitor to private enterprise. They pork out tax revenues to their incompetent and corrupt cronies (socialism) and preach "bootstraps" (free market) for everybody else. If state money is not going to their country club or Chamber of Commerce friends, they block it. It's not too complicated.
The US is not broke. When the top 40% of US households own more than 97% of the wealth, we've got the bottom three-fifths of the country chasing that rest of the, roughly, 3% of the wealth. (

(Report Comment)
dennis nicks April 1, 2011 | 2:05 p.m.

Ah, the Republicans (and many if not most of the Democrats) in office have no reason to concern themselves with the unemployed. After all, even without lobbyist gifts and corporate funding of their election campaigns (the staggering totals for election advertising alone would more than cover the unemployment benefits they're blocking,) they already take home better pay than nearly half of America (the people making under $30K/year) and have better insurance benefits than most Americans have even imagined. Why should legislators care about how real people are expected to fight each other for $15K/year work? The people in office don't have to worry about finding work OR living on minimum wage. Watch how fast the 'representative' rats would leave the sinking ship if they lost their insurance benefits and/or had their salaries cut to minimum wage levels. Representative government, my a**. The rich and coporations sure have been well represented the last decade or so!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 1, 2011 | 2:35 p.m.

Gregg, are you planning on confiscating the wealth from those 40% to clear the government's trillions of dollars in debt, as well as the upcoming Social Security and Medicare overages?

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 1, 2011 | 3:02 p.m.

"we've got the bottom three-fifths of the country chasing that rest of the, roughly, 3% of the wealth."

Is this a great country, or what? Where else could 60% live on 3% as well as we do here in the good ol' US of A.

I'm happy, in spite of those cantankerous, slanderers.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle April 1, 2011 | 3:18 p.m.

@Frank: "Is this a great country, or what? Where else could 60% live on 3% as well as we do here in the good ol' US of A."

Problem is, we're not. Have you checked public and private debt figures lately?

(Report Comment)
dennis nicks April 1, 2011 | 3:19 p.m.

that's pretty high compared to the 1 to 5% owning 97% of the wealth
statistic I've read over the years.
good article here
maybe take a chunk from all the multimillionaires in office if you're looking for a place to get money to pay off GWB's trillions of deficit, then worry about paying the trillions Obama's continuation of TARP cost the non-rich in this country.

(Report Comment)
Matt Wilkinson April 1, 2011 | 3:32 p.m.

@frankc said "I'm happy"

Really Frank? You always sound like a most miserable whiner to me

" spite of those cantankerous, slanderers."

Oh I get it now - you were referring to yourself.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson April 1, 2011 | 4:20 p.m.

@G. Bush: You first mentioned the B2 / unemployment benefit comparison. Not me. I questioned it, because it seemed an apples-to-oranges comparison, since fed funds spent on the B2 are not allocated to the states in the same manner as the unemployment compensation funds. So, who again is exhibiting "disingenuity"?

And, as I said, I think this is a dumb fight for my fellow heartless conservative b*stards to pick.

Enjoy your water. I'm only carrying enough for me and my family.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush April 1, 2011 | 6:06 p.m.

I do not offer a comparison. It is an illustration of priorities.
You are comparing dollars to methods of appropriation. I will suggest you are comparing apples to hubcaps.

While this may be a political discussion for us, there are real people profiled in the AP story. Real people like Mr. Gordon in the photo and Ms. Clark from the copy. Real people who will have their misery compounded by cowardly individuals trying to score political points by exploiting the politically powerless. You call it a dumb fight; I call it revelatory. And Sen. Nieves calls it hearing the voices of the people, and it's crystal clear.
You're like the anti-Cowardly Lion, though - courageously heartless...and proud of it.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson April 1, 2011 | 6:28 p.m.

Did you miss the part where I agreed with you, Gregg?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 1, 2011 | 8:13 p.m.

I don't think he did Tony, that wouldn't play well with his dogma.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson April 1, 2011 | 8:46 p.m.

'Tis rather inexpensive (and quite often politically expedient, in certain circles anyway) to consider oneself as generous and compassionate, when it's other people's money.

That said, I do agree with Gregg, that our state legislature should go ahead and accept, and utilize, the funds in question, for the purpose for which they have been allocated.

I sure hope that is revelatory.

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 1, 2011 | 9:45 p.m.

Note, in the images above, how our host publication portrays "the real people" as opposed to the "cowardly individuals trying to score political points by exploiting the politically powerless." In my opinion, G Bush is of the same stripe as a Mike Dukakis staff member labeled him after his loss for the Presidency. He could run an anti-poverty program better than anyone in the country, but if a down and out individual came to his doorstep, he would have no idea, what to do. Tell me I'm wrong, GB.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush April 1, 2011 | 10:17 p.m.

A person is more complex, more nuanced and more authentic than the sum of their Missourian comments - with all due respect offered toward the School of Journalism.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 2, 2011 | 5:24 a.m.

@ Tony Robertson:

President Harry Truman, during the 1948 presidential campaign, addressed a group of university students on the subject of politics and told them they already had a leg up on becoming politicians because as students they were spending someone else's money. :) I believe at the time he was speaking at University of Wisconsin.

(Report Comment)
Ron Weldy April 3, 2011 | 1:26 p.m.

What I can’t figure out is we as a country have given the rights and money to a Brazilian Oil Company to drill for oil in the Gulf that will go to China, continue to give ILLEGAL immigrants rights, money, housing, food and tax breaks just for starters. Oh and don't forget the Social Security we want to allow them. What does all of that cost? But instead of holding the Federal government in check on issues like this we want to start our cuts on our own citizens! We want to make the cuts on the people that have lost their jobs do to a bad economy and bad political decisions giving Billions of dollars to the wealthy businesses to go on those fancy company meetings we all get to listen to. The second stance we want to take is one on Education, come on people look at history. Cripple the poor and cut education where have we seen this before? HITLER and SOCIALISM!! It is admirable to want and take steps to cause the Federal Government to stop spending I am glad you are willing to doing that. But you don’t start on your own people if you are for the people you start on those that are not here LEGALLY first then you cut your benefits back (all those political perks you get that we pay for), then you take a pay cut and then you take another pay cut. Sound crazy? That is what we have done! Yes your voters, those of us that ARE here legally have done just that to try and keep our jobs so we would at least have a job. Didn’t work! But we made those sacrifices because we have self pride, commitment, honor and integrity. If you had these qualities then you would not sacrifice your people first you would start the battle FOR THEM not AT THEM. The Republicans have been given a chance to turn this country around and unite its people for the common good of our country and as many critics feared you are blowing it! So you will do your turn and be voted out leaving us worse then when you came because you have crushed our HOPE!!!

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 3, 2011 | 3:32 p.m.

Ron W.- You give up too quick. R's have had one branch for 60 days. It took D's 50 years to get us where we are today. Try to hang in there. Might help to quit assigning blame for problems caused by D's to "we as a country", then specify R's as the ones that won't correct them.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush April 3, 2011 | 5:34 p.m.

In bizarro-world, national Democrats are held accountable for the actions of Republicans in Missouri.
In reality, Republicans in Missouri are filibustering the authorization to use federal dollars to extend unemployment benefits and aid schools.
In bizarro-world, my Social Security and Medicare is not wasteful spending while your Social Security and Medicare is wasteful spending.
In reality, my Social Security and Medicare is not wasteful spending and your Social Security and Medicare is not wasteful spending.
In bizarro-world, Democrats are accountable for the wasteful government spending when they're in the minority.
In bizarro-world, government budget surplus means tax-cuts while government budget deficit means tax-cuts.
In bizarro-world, "paying their fair share" means Fortune 500 companies get tax rebates while making record profits.
In reality, bizarro-world denizens will change the subject with poorly contructed sentence fragments and random conspiratorial ravings while struggling to lampoon a messenger.
In reality, policy makers have the arrogance to claim to listen to "the people" while trampling on the dignity of the most vulnerable, and their toadies have the gall to cheer them on.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 3, 2011 | 6:08 p.m.

It will all be put right - if we can find someone who is willing to "bell the cat." There just don't seem to be many volunteers.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger April 3, 2011 | 6:43 p.m.

@Gregg Bush. Right on, and if there's any label I get sick of hearing the bizarros repeatedly extol, it's "the American people," assuming that they, the bizarros, speak for all of us.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson April 3, 2011 | 7:14 p.m.

So, should there absolutely be no time limit whatsoever to unemployment benefits? If I favor, say, a 6-month extension, but you favor a 12-month extension, are you twice as compassionate as me, twice the promoter of "social justice" as me? Am I somehow an insensitive "toadie", carrying water for the "hoarders", because I am not as generous with other people's money as you? Just asking.

As I have said, I am opposed to the MO legislature foregoing these federal funds allocated for this purpose. But I still ponder these questions.

(Report Comment)
Ron Weldy April 3, 2011 | 9:28 p.m.

Frank I'm not about to giving up. I also know who put us in this spot. But people won't remember that if the Rep. don't get down to business. It just ticks me off that they want to give everything to the illegal immigrants and take away from us. The part about education ticks me off the most not unemployment. What we spend on that situation is far greater then unemployment and probably education combined. If they want to set a president with the federal government then that is one of the greatest problems we face internally. It affects any and all economic issues. Unemployment and education is not going to wake up the Feds. But, if all the states pulled an Arizona that might wake somebody. And just maybe Obama wouldn't be standing next to the Mexican leader and trash talking it this time!! If we crossed his border we would be shot or put in prison. PERIOD! He wants his people over here so they can send money back into their country.

(Report Comment)
Rita Cosimano April 4, 2012 | 7:28 p.m.

I'am not surprised that todays republicians are behind this move.
Republicians continue to feed off of the poor. The senator says it makes lazy people, another government person who dosent face reality and simply does not relate to people who are considered to be the working class.
So Mr.Republican tell me where can my daughter get a job? Have you looked for a job lately?

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum April 4, 2012 | 8:06 p.m.

Too many bumpkins voting in their worst interest for the last 30 years. We can thank religiousness and ignorance for where we are. We citizens have a lot of power to elect those who represent us, but the plurality of the electorate is not informed about geopolitical issues, the environment, etc. In Missouri, where we are about 10-20 years behind the coastal regions of the country, we still argue about whether or not recycling is good (where do you think the resources come from and the trash goes?), whether gay people can get married (who cares?), etc. Not only that, but we talk about words like 'social' and 'community' as if they are foul language. We deserve what we get, and it is sad.

(Report Comment)

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