As politicians have shifted their focus to a discussion of minimum wage this spring, addressing the December expiration of emergency unemployment benefits, retroactively, appeared increasingly difficult. However, the Senate now appears ready to raise the issue, again, nearly two months after the emergency benefits expired.
The number of Americans, who have been cut off from unemployment insurance due to congressional inaction, will swell to just under 2 million people as February draws to a close. Approximately 1.3 million Americans were abruptly cut off from the program on Dec. 28, 2013, and the number denied benefits will continue to grow without congressional action. More than $3 billion in unemployment checks has not been distributed to unemployed workers as a result of the program‘s expiration.
The cut in unemployment compensation will continue to exacerbate shortages at food banks, elevate mortgage delinquency rates, and inhibit the ability of job-seekers to continue their search, if no action is taken.
Payroll employment, the labor market participation rate, and long-term unemployment have still not returned to pre-recession levels, and robust job growth in the near term appears unlikely. For these reasons, efforts to extend emergency unemployment compensation have attracted bipartisan support, especially among conservatives in states still plagued with high unemployment. Nonetheless, only four Republican Senators supported moving forward with the proposal in a procedural vote in early February.
Extending emergency unemployment benefits is a vital piece of unfinished business for this Congress, and it is perhaps the only vehicle of its kind that could provide relief to job-seekers trying to make it in a tough market. An extension of the emergency unemployment compensation program (EUC) should continue to be pursed for the same reasons the minimum wage should be increased– the economy is not working for the average American. We can, and should, help low-wage job workers, those working part-time for economic reasons, and unemployed job seekers.
For a breakdown of ongoing state-by-state impacts, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has produced a concise chart that extends through December 2014 here.
For Further Reading:
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Are Not Forgotten, The Fine Print blog, Feb. 26, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Ways to Take Action, The Fine Print blog, March 6, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Time to Petition the Government, The Fine Print blog, March 12, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Compromise in the Senate, The Fine Print blog, March 14, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Boehner Signals Reluctance in the House, The Fine Printblog, March 21, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension Clears First Hurdle in the Senate, The Fine Printblog, March 28, 2014
Extending Emergency Unemployment: Senate Finally Expected to Vote to Extend Benefits and Rush through Corporate Tax Cuts, The Fine Print blog, April 2, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Bill Passes the Senate, Increasing Pressure on the House, The Fine Print blog, April 8, 2014
Stories of Americans Cut Off of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Government Matters, April 22, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Extension Expected to Take Back Seat to Tax Extenders, The Fine Print blog, April 25, 2014
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