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Stimulus Act Benefits for the Unemployed

Stimulus Act Benefits for the Unemployed

Margot Carmichael Lester, Monster Contributing Writer

Assistance for Older Workers

Older workers may benefit from an additional $120 million earmarked for the Senior Community Service Employment Program. The program helps unemployed, low-income workers aged 55-plus get training. This is primarily through paid community service assignments for jobs in their communities, according to Cynthia Metzler, president/CEO of Experience Works, an Arlington, Virginia-based organization that provides job training to older workers in 30 states and Puerto Rico.

“As of February 2009, 1.7 million workers age 55 or older were unemployed and looking for work,” Metzler says. “This figure doesn’t include older workers who have become discouraged and dropped out of the labor market. The additional funding will create more training opportunities for these workers, which will help them qualify for some of the 3.5 million jobs expected to be saved or created over the next two years as a result of ARRA.”

Part-Time Work

Nationally, 8.6 million workers reported working less than full-time for economic reasons, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet prior to the ARRA’s passage, unemployed workers in 28 states who were looking for part-time work were not eligible for unemployment benefits.

“Under the Act, states qualify for federal dollars if they modernize their unemployment compensation systems, and one of the ways to qualify is to make workers looking for part-time work eligible for benefits,” explains Beth Shulman, senior analyst for the Russell Sage Foundation and author of The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans. “Many [states] are reforming their part-time eligibility requirements.”

A Tax Break

The Act also creates a tax break for unemployed workers, exempting the first $2,400 of their 2009 unemployment benefits from taxation. Previously, the entire amount received could be taxed.

“This may not seem like a lot, but if a person is receiving unemployment benefits for a short period of time, this will result not only in a financial boost at the time he or she receives the benefits, but at tax time as well,” says Tim Davis, an attorney with The Lawrence Firm LSC in Covington, Kentucky. “Even if a person receives unemployment benefits for a long duration, this still puts more money into their pockets, because the first part of his or her benefits is tax-free.”

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