Named such because 99 is the maximum number of weeks for unemployment payouts in the states with the highest unemployment rates, job hunting "99ers" will take to the streets outside Federal Hall on Thursday to demand that Congress broaden unemployment benefits to include them. New York was among the states with the highest unemployment rates until last month, when it dropped to 9.3%, which cuts off unemployment payouts after 93 weeks. The city's unemployment rate is still 9.5%, high enough to justify 99 weeks worth of payments.
Michael White, an unemployed video editor from LA and founder of the Unemployed Workers Action Group, said, "When you're losing your home because you're broke, you don't feel comfortable anymore just sending emails and faxes." UWAG is sponsoring Thursday's rally in an effort to make their struggle more visible. Yvonne Fitzner, 67, lost her unemployment benefits in March, and said, "What's wrong with our situation is if we were all in one long bread line, people could see our suffering. We're invisible." She has been unable to afford air conditioning or her asthma medication, and had to pay a $2,050 deductible for surgery last fall with donations from friends. "There's a lot of anger at Congress," she said.