07/28/2010 04:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tier 5: Schumer Promises Legislation To Help The 99ers

After Senate Democrats broke a 50-day filibuster and restored unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed to do more.

"There are a number of people who have maxed out, they've been looking and looking for work and haven't found it, and there is a separate act that would extend the unemployment benefits to them," Schumer told New York's WENY-TV. "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."

Last year, Congress enacted several pieces of legislation that ultimately gave the unemployed in some states 99 weeks of benefits. With nearly 15 million unemployed competing for just three million jobs available, 99 weeks isn't enough time for some people to find work. Hundreds of thousands had already joined the ranks of the "99ers" in April. The Washington Post reported recently that the total had reached 1.4 million.

Despite the swelling roster of 99ers, reauthorizing the existing benefits has been an epic struggle all year long, opposed by Republicans and conservative Democrats who view jobless aid as a good place to seek deficit reduction (though some deficit hawks outside of Congress don't share that view). Congressional delays have caused the extended benefits to briefly lapse three times this year, most recently for nearly two months.

The 99ers have sent a petition to Washington demanding an extra "tier" of federally-funded benefits, which are currently broken into four tiers totaling 53 weeks of benefits. Democrats in Congress have been lukewarm to the idea. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said "99 weeks is sufficient" and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House wouldn't go there before November.

But Chuck Schumer has been telling constituents all along that he'd try to get them extra weeks. "Once I ensure that every New Yorker receives the full 99 weeks to which they are entitled," said an April letter from Schumer's office, "I will work with my colleagues to create a fifth tier of benefits. More than 25,000 New Yorkers have exhausted the full 99 weeks of benefits and I am committed to providing them further relief."

Schumer's office has not responded to HuffPost's request for more details.

Ed Schultz said on his MSNBC show, in comments flagged by the Rochester Unemployment Examiner, that Michigan Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow told him she's working "something for the 99ers." Stebenow's office has not yet responded to a query from HuffPost.

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