UNEMPLOYMENT / FEB. 17, 2014
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Unemployment Benefit Cuts and the Political Drama

Unemployment Benefit Cuts

Many Americans received their ‘pink slips’ in the mail – ‘No more unemployment benefit checks as of December 28, 2013.’ Depending on which state they lived in, many jobless workers, under a special emergency Federal Program, were receiving unemployment insurance payments for approximately 73 weeks. However, the program ran out; leaving people wondering where to turn. Prior to the federal program, unemployed workers were only eligible for six months of state unemployed benefits. To many, the federal program was a god-send. Now that the life-line has been taken away, there were more than one million jobless workers without any other options.

Since the 2008 recession, the emergency federal program offered an additional 47 weeks of unemployment insurance payments; supplemental to the regular state payments. Its termination has had far-reaching complications for the economy since it has reduced the 2014 job growth by approximately 300,000 jobs; forcefully pushing many households toward poverty.

The Bad News

The bad news is that the unemployment extension program was not in the budget deal passed by Congress this past December. Who is to blame? Shouldn’t Congress have handled this fragile and serious issue for desperate Americans? They must have known beforehand that it would expire. When the federal program expired this past winter, only one in four Americans received the state jobless benefits. In half a century, this is the lowest ratio.

Many of these people look forward to their unemployment benefits while they search and interview for jobs. Believe it or not, some of the people affected include IT professionals, web designers and corporate executives who were making considerable income before the recession and loss of jobs. Some had to sell or trade in their vehicles. Some had to move in with other relatives. Some had to cut their utility bills and most of them had to make drastic changes within their households. Now that the emergency federal program has been taken away, the situation will get even worse.

Even with such a serious issue at hand, Democrats and Republican leaders are still playing the ‘cat and mouse’ game on Capitol Hill. Once the program expired, the Democrats pushed for a three-month program extension while the Republicans would only do it if they could get other spending cuts that would benefit them.

Did you know that the loss of benefit is going to drain the economy of billions in consumer spending? So why aren’t politicians thinking about this?

Since December, the Democrats have tried three times to persuade the Republicans to consider extending the federal program, but it has been continuously blocked. According to the latest national polls, 60% of Americans agree with the program extension. However, the GOP Senate members and the Republican-led House are yet to consider a renewal; since the program has had 11 extensions since its inception in 2008. The Republicans may also be concerned about the deficit; claiming that the funds would be irresponsibly added to the deficit.

AnchorThe Democrats have proposed one way to pay for the program – increasing employee pension contributions. However, the Republicans have returned with another demand – increasing cost of living payments to military retirees; although, this too, would add to the deficit and cut the federal budget. So where do the jobless go from here?

It is apparent that no one is getting anywhere with all of this ‘back and forth’ dangling by both parties – playing Russian roulette with people’s lives .Did you know that there are 2.3 million children in America who have long term unemployed parents? What does this mean? Children are going to bed hungry for sure!

The contention by most lawmakers is that people out of work for long periods of time are losing job skills. However, most workforce labor offices offer additional resources for people out of work. While receiving unemployment benefits, jobless workers have the opportunity to go back to school. They are also provided help with job search. At this point, Americans need hope. Their resolve is running out. It is time that they stop paying the price at the hands of politicking.

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