What do you do when you’ve been out of work so long that you’ve maxed out your unemployment benefits? You become a member of the “99er” club. It’s what a growing number of the jobless are calling themselves now that they have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Many of their members, once gainfully employed and enjoying a middle-class lifestyle, are now confronting their bleak and often hopeless economic realities. Some are pushing Congress for help, but the political landscape—Republicans are reluctant to extend benefits for fear of increasing the national debt—makes the likelihood of getting federal assistance seem slim to none. So what are the options and the real-world ramifications of long-term unemployment? And what is the psychological toll one pays for membership in the 99er club?
Slyvia Allgretto, labor economist, Institute for Research on Labor & Employment, University of California, Berkeley
Robert Gore, clinical psychologist and associate director of the University of Southern California’s PhD training program in clinical psychological
Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator, National Employment Law Project