If Congress doesn’t extend the current extended federal unemployment insurance (UI) program by the end of the year, 1.3 million jobless workers will be cut off from UI the week of Dec. 28. Nearly 1.9 million more would lose the extended UI during the first half of 2014 as their state benefits run out.
But with only nine days left on the House legislative calendar before the congressional holiday recess, a group of lawmakers issued an urgent call Wednesday to reauthorize federal jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, as Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) announced new legislation to renew federal unemployment insurance through 2014.
The current program, last extended in January 2013, provides up to 47 weeks of federal benefits in states with the highest unemployment rates on top of the normal 26 weeks that most states provide.
With the economy still 2 million jobs in the hole after the Great Recession and with 37% of the unemployed out of work for more than six months, on top of that writes Sarah Ayres of the Center for American Progress:
Labor market conditions are worse than the unemployment rate indicates, because much of the improvement in the unemployment rate has been the result of individuals dropping out of the labor force, rather than entering employment.
Says Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP):
The fate of millions of workers who are struggling to find work in the wake of the Great Recession is in the hands of the leadership in Congress. With the holidays fast approaching, it would be unconscionable for Congress to recess without reauthorizing federal jobless aid, leaving millions of families out in the cold. Congress should pass this critical legislation without delay