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 ForgottenThe Fine Print blog, Feb. 26, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Ways to Take ActionThe Fine Print blog, March 6, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Time to Petition the GovernmentThe Fine Print blog, March 12, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Compromise in the SenateThe Fine Print blog, March 14, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Boehner Signals Reluctance in the HouseThe Fine Printblog, March 21, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension Clears First Hurdle in the SenateThe Fine Printblog, March 28, 2014

Extending Emergency Unemployment: Senate Finally Expected to Vote to Extend Benefits   and Rush through Corporate Tax CutsThe Fine Print blog, April 2, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Benefits Bill Passes the Senate, Increasing Pressure on the HouseThe Fine Print blog, April 8, 2014

Stories of Americans Cut Off of Emergency Unemployment CompensationGovernment Matters, April 22, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Extension Expected to Take Back Seat to Tax ExtendersThe Fine Print blog, April 25, 2014

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