Give all a voice. Allow all to speak and all to be accurately heard
Posted by: Christine Riordan on Oct 22, 2010
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With the holidays approaching and the jobs market barely chugging along, now is not the time to allow unemployment extensions go by the wayside. Yet the current package of extensions expires on November 30th, and unless Congress acts quickly, 1.2 million people will be left out in the cold during the holiday season.
December will be a stark month for over a million people facing a cut-off of their federal benefits, which are made up of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) programs. And this experience may not be new: earlier this summer, congressional gridlock left about 2.5 million people cut-off from federal benefits starting in June. After a long and protracted fight, the federal
As our new analysis shows, without reauthorization, over a million people will fall off the rolls in December. This includes over 800,000 people who will finish out one of their EUC tiers and will not be able to move on to the next available set of weeks available in their state, whether through another EUC tier or Extended Benefits. Additionally, nearly 400,000 people will lose all access to any form of an extension after running out of their regular state benefits, which only are allotted for up to 26 weeks. This means that in most states, recently laid-off workers will receive only six months of benefits or less, even though unemployment is as high or higher than it was when the current federal programs were first enacted.programs were finally restored, but Congress’ failure to renew them in time left some families without benefits for nearly two months.
And the unemployment crisis is going nowhere fast. We’ve had 17 consecutive months with unemployment rates above nine percent, and there is still only one job opening for every five jobless workers. All told, we need 11.5 million jobs to dig ourselves out of this jobs crisis and reach the level of employment we had prior to the recession. Now is clearly not the time to have dragged-out debates about renewing federal benefits that will leave millions with few other options if they run out.
Over the summer, we started seeing a lot of hype in these debates about workers living the highlife on their unemployment benefits. But, the fact is that the program provides a modest income that is certainly not enough to deter individuals from working. Currently, the average extension recipient receives about $1,257 per month in benefits, which covers half the income needed for the most basic necessities of food, transportation and housing. This support helps keep families afloat: without benefits, an additional 3.3 million people would have fallen into poverty in 2009.
Just as much as they’re a lifeline for families, federal benefits are also a lifeline to the economy, especially holiday retail sales. As far as retailers and economic recovery are concerned, there is no worse time to cut job seekers off unemployment benefits, which boost spending and help generate jobs. Department stores, electronics chains, and discounters count on holiday sales for over one-fifth of their total annual revenues, and a lapse in benefits will hurt retailers, already struggling through a sluggish year, as consumer spending falls during the holiday season.
Cutting off unemployment benefits in November will certainly leave a lump of coal in the stockings of workers and retailers alike. When it returns to work on November 15th heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, Congress has a unique opportunity to set aside partisanship and come together in support of hardworking Americans on the extension of unemployment benefits. Never before in the history of the program have federal jobless benefits been cut when unemployment was this high for this long. Now is not the time to change course, when the economy and working families need the help most.