Two million could lose jobless benefits unless Congress extends programme

 

Washington

More than 2 million Americans stand to lose their jobless benefits unless Congress reauthorizes federal emergency unemployment help before the end of the year.

The people in danger of having their unemployment checks cut off are among those who have benefitted least from the slowly improving job market: Americans who have been out of work longer than six months.

These workers have exhausted their state unemployment insurance, leaving them reliant on the federal program.

In addition to those at risk of abruptly losing their benefits in December, 1 million people would have their checks curtailed by April if the program is not renewed, according to lawmakers and advocates pushing to have the program extended.

"We cannot forget the human cliff looming for more than two million Americans scheduled to lose their economic lifeline during the upcoming holidays," Rep. Sander Levin, Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is just one component of the looming "fiscal cliff," a number of programs and tax breaks set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress comes up with an alternative.

Conservative lawmakers have raised concerns that continually extending jobless benefits is both an unmanageable burden on the federal budget and a disincentive for people to find work.

Many jobless Americans have come to depend on the benefits.

"I don't know what I would do without them," said Richard Crowe, 54, a Wintersville, Ohio, millwright who has depended on a $764 biweekly unemployment check since May, when the steel company he worked for closed and filed for bankruptcy. "I will probably have to try to sell my house just to stay above water."

Crowe, who made $84,000 a year before being laid off, said he has applied for around 100 jobs, but to no avail. "All I get back, if anything, are 'Dear John' letters," he said.

His plight is not unusual.

More than 5 million Americans have been out of work longer than six months — the limit for most state-funded unemployment insurance — though not all of them get jobless benefits. This group makes up 40 percent of the nation's unemployed, a share that has dropped little even as the jobless rate has inched down.

Federal jobless-benefit extensions are intended to provide support, until the job market improves, to workers who have gone beyond state-funded unemployment insurance limits. The program has been in place since President George W. Bush signed it into law in June 2008, as the economy was deteriorating as a result of the financial crisis.

At the time, fewer than one in five jobless workers had been out of work longer than six months.

As the unemployment crisis has persisted, the program has been extended on 10 occasions, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which advocates for low-wage workers and the jobless.

In February, Congress renewed the program but cut the number of weeks of extended aid available. The change reduced benefits that once stretched to 99 weeks in the states with the highest unemployment rates.

Supporters of the program point to academic research showing that unemployed workers who receive benefits spend more time looking for jobs than those who do not.

Combined with the drop in the jobless rate, changes in the federal unemployment program have reduced the average time that jobless Americans can collect benefits by nearly one-third, according to the Congressional Research Service. Meanwhile, the proportion of jobless people receiving unemployment benefits has dropped from 64 percent two years ago to 43 percent in September, according to the NELP.

A coalition of more than 35 groups led by the NELP is launching a campaign to press Congress to extend the program. In the coming days and weeks, the coalition is planning to visit lawmakers, buy ads and hold news events aimed at building pressure for its cause.

The groups want Congress to make reauthorizing unemployment insurance a priority during the lame-duck session, which starts this week and is scheduled to go until the end of next month.

Beyond the pain that a cutoff would cause recipients, advocates say that ending the federal jobless benefits would harm the economy since those who get such checks tend to quickly spend the money on basic needs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

MBDA UK Ltd: PCB Technologies Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor