Urban.org provides a nice background on Unemployment Insurance benefits and the problems certain states faced at the end of 2008:
The states finance UI benefits with payroll taxes paid by employers into state trust funds maintained at the U.S. Treasury. State balances earn interest income. The Treasury also makes loans to states whose trust funds have been exhausted. At the end of 2008, trust fund balances were low in several states, and three (Indiana, Michigan, and South Carolina) had already borrowed to maintain benefit payments to eligible workers.Those states were just the beginning. Economic Populist with the details:
$10.9 billion. That's the amount of money currently lent by Federal Department of Labor (DOL) to a group of 15 states whose unemployment insurance (UI) trust funds have run dry.
How did we get here? Back to Urban.org (bold mine):
For the aggregate U.S. economy, the highest-ever payout rate was 2.22 percent of payroll experienced during January-December 1982. Before the current recession, reserves across 51 state UI programs totaled $37.6 billion in December 2007 and represented just 0.80 percent of total payroll for the year. The RRM at the end of 2007 was 0.36, that is, the reserve ratio of 0.80 percent divided by the high cost rate of 2.22 percent. Reserves totaled about a third of the recommended actuarial standard and represented roughly four months of benefits at the highest-ever payout rate.In other words, based on the level of unemployment insurance needed in the 1982 recession, states only had about 4 months worth of unemployment ready to pay out. Thus, the following can't be a surprise. Back to Economic Populist:
And it's about to get a whole hell of a lot worse. By the end of the year that number will likely have have grown to 35 states. Total DOL emergency loans to states at that time? Nearly $50 billion dollars. The situation will be far worse for some states than others. The states appearing in red on the map below are those that will need DOL loans to keep unemployment benefits rolling.What's $50 billion amongst friends?