Extending a Critical Lifeline for the Long-Term Unemployed

This weekend, Unemployment Insurance benefits are set to expire for more than 1.3 million Americans. These are people who have been struggling in this tough economy after losing their jobs through no fault of their own, and now they will lose a critical lifeline. New Year’s is supposed to be a time of excitement and new beginnings, but for too many people, it will be a time of desperation.

This is happening because Congress failed to act to renew the extended emergency unemployment benefits that have helped them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while looking for work.

Maximum duration of federal benefits if unemployment benefits continue (top) or expire (bottom), from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Source: www.cbpp.org

These benefits are provided through the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides additional aid to workers when their state benefits run out. The current version of this program was launched under President Bush and a Republican Congress in 2008 to help combat the recession. At that time, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the average duration of unemployment was 17 weeks.

The hole that this administration inherited in the Great Recession was a very deep one. And when you’re in a hole, rule No. 1 is: stop digging. We must maintain these emergency benefits in order to continue climbing our way back to a fully healthy economy.

It’s true that we have made significant strides toward recovery, and unemployment has fallen to about a five-year low at 7 percent. But the average duration of unemployment is more than twice as long at 36 weeks, and long-term unemployment remains unacceptably high at 2.6 percent.

It’s important to remember Unemployment Insurance has had a long, rich and appropriately bipartisan history. And it has always been maintained well into periods of economic recovery. Never before has Congress pulled the plug on this program when long-term joblessness was even half as high as it is right now.

I’ve heard the argument that unemployment benefits somehow act as a dis-incentive to the long-term unemployed when it comes to looking for work, but the opposite is true. Unemployment Insurance serves as a powerful incentive for people to keep searching for jobs, rather than drop out of the labor force altogether.

This is a very important issue for our nation. And it comes at a time of year when we remember and act on our sense of responsibility to one another.

Congress can still do the right thing in the New Year and renew this program. Extending emergency unemployment benefits isn’t just the right thing to do for our families — it’s the smart thing to do for our economy.


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Comments (8)

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  1. Robert Bowler says:

    While I agree that extended unemployment is still a problem ad do beleive that extending the benefits for a longer period is a dis-incentive for people to accept employment. While there may not be a job at the level some people belive they are entitlted there are jobs available that they can do. Working and earning a “living” gives people a sense of accomplishment and self worth as compared to getting a check from the government that they are “entitled”. When do you make the break, when unemployment is 7% , 6.5% 2%, there will always be people that would rather accept money for doing nothing beliving that somehow they are owed or entitled to. Blaming your troubles on someone else is the easy way out. For many of these people receiving unemployment has become a way of life. There are shotages in the labor market in numerous areas (construction, trades, drivers) that people can fill with the right training, provide the training necessary and the government performs a service not by writing a check.

  2. Will Longtin says:

    I became unemployed due to Super Storm Sandy working in Atlantic City, NJ at one of the many casino, who gave me a lay off notice of 2 years. I have been seeking other employment in my culinary field with no success as no one seems to be hiring. I will be one of the many other’s who are losing their unemployment benefits and do not understand what Congress is doing to our country??

  3. Lorrie Riggs says:

    We need to provide extensions for these people. Lorrie Riiggs.

  4. Tracy Johnson says:

    While I see both sides of the issue, if someone has been unemployed for 2 years or more it is either time to seek a new profession or a new location. There are places here in the states that the work is never coming back to, such as factory towns. Unfortunately, some disaster areas such as the hurricane areas haven’t rebuilt everything and may not ever. Atlantic city has long been suffering a decline with the availability of casinos closer to home for many.
    This country has a long history of people moving for jobs or opportunity with many unknowns like westward expansion. People also moved during the dust bowl era. While it may not be ideal, there are many jobs in this country. It may not be what or where you want, but they are out there. I think it’s time to face reality. I have been unemployed before and found work. Most people I know half hearted ly look for work while they get benefits. They always find a job when that govt check disappears. Just sayin’ and just my experience and pov.

  5. WJC says:

    Because congress did it before makes it necessary to do it again seems to be a large part of the argument to extend the benefits for all . Not a good argument. However, specifically, if in certain small geographic areas being rebuilt like NJ because of Sandy or others due to tornadoes etc sounds reasonable to extend benefits for them however not a blanket extension for all. Also lets start thinking about cutting monies elsewhere for example sending some $14M US dollars to Uganda and Moracco for labor aid , while nice , is not appropriate in the short term.

  6. The Dept of Labor should reduce the workweek to 30 hrs after which time & one half would be required. Workers would get a 12%raise and pay enough additional tax to pay for the above long-term unemployment (which is the nation’s No.1 problem) until businesses hired more people–which is the GOAL.Industry would benefit from a 6day week without overtime. College students could work 3days go to class 3days, pay their own tuition and graduate with some work experiance and no Debt!
    Husbands and wives can work alternate 3days with someone always home with the kids and no “day-care”cost interms of $ and travel time every AM & PM.

  7. Pam Sexton says:

    What a load of hooey boys and girls. Why can’t an UI extension be made by our Congress? Don’t the Dems control the Executive branch and the Senate? How can the minority have this much power? It makes no sense to me. They could make it harder, but not impossible. It rather makes me wonder if the Dems really do care about the longterm unemployed?

    As for those of you who think there are many jobs out there and that we must settle for less, move or try harder, I say you are completely out of touch with this “Recession.” I have been under- and unemployed for the last 5 years. I have had 15 jobs ranging from $8/hour to $30/hour but all but one were temp/contract or seasonal. Finding FT/Perm work in your profession(s) is nearly impossible to accomplish. The career sites now show how many applicants there are for jobs you apply. There are not 3 or 5 applicants per job, but more like 80-100 applicants per job. I have tried changing my profession to Healthcare IT and even moved to Minnesota from Kansas to do an internship at Mayo hoping that would lead to a job there or almost any other healthcare organization. Wrong! Mayo had a hiring freeze and layoffs while I was there and I’ve discovered that most hospitals, etc. prefer employees with healthcare exp. bridging to IT rather than IT workers learning clinical terminology. Presently, I can say I have nearly lost everything I have: Savings – gone, Retirement – nearly gone, Credit Cards – used heavily, House – sold at a loss to my tenants, and even worse, loss of self-esteem and my health (due to stress and depression). I have since moved again, to Colorado, but mostly to have a support system. I have nearly lost everything. I have managed to survive by piece-mealing these jobs together and occasional help with Unemployment Insurance (on again, off again) but to think that people can survive on $300/week and are not incentivised to look for work is LUDICROUS. It barely pays the rent and for most, will drive them into poverty.

    Oh, and the Unemployment rate is NOT 7%. That is the popular but very misleading U3 rate provided by the BLS. The U6 rate of 14% is much more accurate:

    U1 : Percentage of labor force unemployed 15 weeks or longer.
    U2 : Percentage of labor force who lost jobs or completed temporary work.
    U3 : Official unemployment rate per ILO definition.
    U4 : U3 + “discouraged workers”, or those who have stopped looking for work because current economic conditions make them believe that no work is available for them.
    U5 : U4 + other “marginally attached workers”, or “loosely attached workers”, or those who “would like” and are able to work, but have not looked for work recently.
    U6 : U5 + Part time workers who want to work full time, but cannot due to economic reasons.

  8. This website certainly has all of the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t
    know who to ask.

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