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Congress Must Act Quickly On Unemployment Compensation

August 2, 2009

This past week we saw how fast Congress can act when it came to providing another $2 billion for the ‘cash for clunkers’ program.  I strongly support that move by Congress, as it was the proper route to take to help ignite the national economy with stimulus funds.  But the action by Congress within 24 hours shows the speed that things can get done if there is a desire to do so.  Having said that there needs to be the same laser type attention to the looming unemployment compensation matter that is about to strike a large segment of the country.

Over the coming months, as many as 1.5 million jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits, ending what for some has been a last bulwark against foreclosures and destitution.

Because of emergency extensions already enacted by Congress, laid-off workers in nearly half the states can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, the longest period since the unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s. But unemployment in this recession has proved to be especially tenacious, and a wave of job-seekers is using up even this prolonged aid.

Tens of thousands of workers have already used up their benefits, and the numbers are expected to soar in the months to come, reaching half a million by the end of September and 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to new projections by the National Employment Law Project, a private research group.

Unemployment insurance is now a lifeline for nine million Americans, with payments averaging just over $300 per week, varying by state and work history. While many recipients find new jobs before exhausting their benefits, large numbers in the current recession have been unable to find work for a year or more.

Calls are rising for Congress to pass yet another extension this fall, possibly adding 13 more weeks of coverage in states with especially high unemployment. As of June, the national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent, reaching 15.2 percent in Michigan. Even if the recession begins to ease, economists say, jobs will remain scarce for some time to come.

  1. August 2, 2009 8:44 PM

    So with the states in fiscal distress, should we A) increase state taxes to pay for the UC benefits or B) not provide anymore UC extensions. I wonder what your solution might be.

  2. ReasonableCitizen permalink
    August 2, 2009 7:26 PM

    Disagree. Disagreed with the first one and disagree with a possible second.

    That is a state issue and USG should not be involved.

    We are not the Federal States of America.IMO.

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