Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced a bill earlier this month that would cut taxes for businesses that hire new workers who have been looking for work the longest and provide emergency assistance for struggling families looking for work by creating an additional tier of benefits for those who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits.

Stabenow’s bill, which was introduced August 4 shortly before the Senate left for its August recess, is cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senators Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

“Across our state, more than 35,000 people who have lost their jobs have also exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits,” said Stabenow in a statement. “I know that these men and women want to work and have been trying their best to find jobs in this difficult economy. My legislation cuts taxes for businesses that hire new workers who have been looking for work the longest. My bill also provides 20 more weeks of unemployment insurance to people in states like ours with the highest number of people out of work.”

The Americans Want to Work Act extends through 2011 the successful HIRE Act tax credit, signed into law earlier this year, to encourage businesses to hire workers. The HIRE Act cuts payroll taxes for businesses that hire workers who have been out of work for longer than 60 days and also gives them a $1,000 general business tax credit for each worker employed for at least a year. The Stabenow bill also doubles the tax credit to $2,000 if businesses hire workers who have totally exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Recent reports from the Department of Treasury show that from February to June of this year, businesses hired approximately 5.6 million new workers who had been out of work for eight weeks or more. Michigan ranks ninth in employers who potentially qualify for HIRE Act tax exemptions, which have created about 185,163 jobs in Michigan.

The Americans Want to Work Act would create a Tier 5 of benefits that would provide 20 additional weeks of unemployment insurance for individuals in states like Michigan with an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent or higher. This tier will benefit people who have exhausted all of their benefits. In order to receive this tier, individuals would still need to meet regular unemployment insurance law requirements.

The tier would apply retroactively to everyone who has exhausted all of their previous tiers in recent months. However, benefits would not be paid retroactively. For example, if someone exhausted their benefits three months ago, they would be eligible to begin their Tier 5 at the date of enactment. They would not, however, be paid out for the three months in which they did not receive benefits. If someone is going to exhaust their benefits in two weeks, they would move directly onto Tier 5 and receive their 20 weeks.

People who are unemployed would still need to meet the current unemployment insurance law requirements such as job searches.

The prospects for the bill are unclear as Congress struggled to pass an unemployment extension last month to extend benefits through the end of November amid worries about the budget deficit (see Congress Sends Unemployment Extension to White House). However, with approximately 15 million Americans out of work and many of them, now known as 99ers, hitting the 99-week limit on their benefits in the states with the longest benefits, many lawmakers want to make sure that there is still a safety net in place for the long-term jobless (see Congress Ponders Extending Unemployment Benefits Beyond 99 Weeks).

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