Lawmakers are mulling the possibility of adding an extra tier of unemployment benefits beyond the four tiers currently available for those who have been out of work for over 99 weeks.

However, the hard-fought battle over extending unemployment benefits that played out earlier this month is leaving some lawmakers exhausted.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., recently told an Elmira, N.Y., TV news outlet, WENY-TV, that Congress was working on a bill that would help those who have exhausted the 99 weeks of benefits during the economic downturn, adding a possible Tier 5 of benefits.

“There are a number of people who have maxed out,” he said. “They’re been looking and looking for work, but haven’t found it, and there is a separate act that would extend those benefits to them. Extending this was really important. There are some people who go beyond the 99 weeks and we’re going to try to do that next.”

However, Schumer and his staff are reportedly “tired” right now from the recent battle to get the last unemployment extension passed, according to Examiner.com, and further legislation is not likely to emerge until well after the August recess. Schumer has also said that he would need help from at least one Republican to pass such a bill. Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, is also reportedly interested in working on extending benefits for the so-called “99ers.” But it may be difficult to add a fifth tier of benefits. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has previously indicated that there were no plans for adding an extra tier. But anything can change in Washington, especially with elections approaching.


With the economy still sputtering, and efforts to pass jobs legislation such as the Small Business Jobs Act encountering resistance, it may be necessary to extend benefits further before the crucial midterm elections if the unemployment numbers don't improve faster.

The recently passed unemployment extension will help over 2 million of the unemployed who have exhausted their benefits, but only through the end of November. That will mean millions of nervous voters at the polls on election day.