1.3 million Americans face cutoff from unemployment benefits after Christmas

More than 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers will lose vital unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas due to congressional inaction.

“For this Congress to ignore the national economic impact would be short-sighted; to ignore the human – the individual human impact – would be cold-hearted,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Michigan), who introduced a bill to extend the federal unemployment compensation program by a year on Nov. 20th.

But despite pleas by Democratic lawmakers, the House of Representatives adjourned last week without voting on an extension to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation [EUC] program, which provides federal unemployment benefits for jobless workers after their state unemployment benefits run out. (Workers now receive 26 weeks – or 6 months – of state unemployment benefits.)

In 2012 alone, the federal emergency unemployment benefits have helped lifted 2.5 million people from poverty.

Without the extension, federal unemployment benefits will be cut off for 1.3 million people on Dec. 28th. Given that another 1.9 million people will lose their benefits in June 2014, and 1.6 million people will be cut off in December 2014, the total number of unemployed workers impacted is projected to be more than 4.9 million – plus another 9 million family members, including many children – over the next year.

“Allowing EUC to expire would be harmful to millions of workers and their families, counter-productive to the economic recovery, and unprecedented in the context of previous extensions to earlier unemployment insurance programs,” according to a report released by the Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Labor.

Although there are some positive signs on the economic horizon, for many unemployed Americans, the job recovery is not happening fast enough.

“Finding work remains very difficult in an economy that still has 1.5 million fewer jobs than before the recession started 6 years ago. We have never had anything close to such a sustained job deficit after any recent downturn,” said Levin.

As of November, the unemployment rate dropped to 7% but some of the decrease was the result of “labor force drop-outs as opposed to a real decline in unemployment”, according to Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project.

“If we included all the missing workers in our unemployment count, unemployment today would be 11%. This is not the kind of economy in which people struggling with long-term unemployment can find jobs,” Owens said.

Owens told lawmakers at a recent hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that there are still 3 unemployed workers competing for each job opening.

At the same hearing, Stan Osnowitz, a 67-year-old electrician and IBEW Local 24 member from Baltimore, Maryland, testified about how he has been “actively pursuing” work through his union and other leads, waking everyday at 4 a.m., but that construction work has been hard to come by during the winter. He is hoping that work opportunities will pick up in the spring. But in the meantime, Osnowitz’s state unemployment insurance benefit is his only income.

“Unemployment benefits have helped me scrape by week-to-week,” Osnowitz said. “Here I am facing the end of my unemployment benefits in January. If this Congress does not act to renew the federal emergency unemployment compensation program, there will be no federal benefits for me and people like me. If that happens and I’m still unemployed, I won’t be able to pay even the basics. If Congress lets the EUC program shuts down, I won’t even be able to put gas in my car to even look for a job. Tell me how that’s going to help me and help others like me get back to work?”

Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities, which serves about 10 million in poverty every year, said unemployment compensation is a “vital life-link” to help keep jobless workers and their families from slipping into poverty.

“It can make the difference between continuing to have housing and also having enough to eat,” said Snyder. “It is understandable that this benefit should not be extended permanently. But as a nation, we should not pull the rug from under the Americans who continue to look for work in this economy that is ever so slow to recover. We can understand having limits but we have to take into account the reality of the depth of the current setback in the economy.”

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10 Comments on “1.3 million Americans face cutoff from unemployment benefits after Christmas

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Testimony of Rev. Larry Snyder on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Testimony of Vera Volk on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  3. Pingback: Transcript: Testimony of Lisa Floyd on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  4. Pingback: Transcript: Testimony of Christine Owens on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  5. Pingback: Transcript: House Democratic Steering Committee hearing on unemployment insurance on Dec. 5, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  6. Pingback: State-by-state numbers of jobs that will be lost if federal unemployment insurance is not extended through the end of 2014 | What The Folly?!

  7. Pingback: State-by-state numbers of long-term unemployed workers facing cut-off from federal emergency unemployment insurance assistance in 2014 | What The Folly?!

  8. Pingback: Transcript: Testimony of Stan Osnowitz on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  9. Pingback: WH report: Failure to extend federal unemployment benefits will cost 240,000 jobs, lower GDP in 2014 | What The Folly?!

  10. Pingback: Job seekers & experts refute misperception that long-term UI benefits encourage unemployment | What The Folly?!

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