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Federal Unemployment Benefits Dry Up For Jobless in SA

Photo: Creative Commons Images, License: N/A

Creative Commons Images


Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said the end to extended unemployment benefits, “defies economic sense, precedent and our values” and is especially egregious amid the holiday season, “Never before have we abruptly cut off emergency unemployment insurance when we faced this level of long-term unemployment and it would be a blow to these families and our economy,” he said in a statement. Indeed, since 1948 Congress has never allowed extended unemployment benefits to expire when unemployment rates were this high. Right now, the long-term rate (2.6 percent) is at least twice as high as it was during the expiration of every previous extended UI benefits program, according to the U.S. labor report.

A Senate vote to extend the program by three months was scheduled for Monday afternoon, but a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) delayed the vote until Tuesday morning (after our press deadline). Senate Dems needed 60 votes to sail it through; it was unclear whether or not they could wrangle in enough GOPers to advance the bill. Even if it gets a Senate green light, the bill will still have to go through the House—where a Republican majority holds. (Check back in with sacurrent.com for the latest.)

President Obama, a vocal opponent of the cut, is slated to host an event on Tuesday with Americans who have lost their benefits. During a weekly radio address, Obama described the decision to deny families extended benefits as, “just plain cruel.”

Sills remains hopeful the situation can be rectified, “A lot of this is Congressional politics,” he said. “We believe and hope there is still a possibility of retroactively reestablishing benefits; there’s certainly a major effort in Congress to do that. We’re not giving up on this by any means.”

Coupled with the recent reduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as ‘food stamps’, the termination of UI benefits is a one-two punch to struggling Americans not quite in the post-Recession era clear. The continuing evisceration of the social safety net is backed largely by Republicans who claim federal welfare programs create lazy, freeloading populations and government-subsidized exploitation.

In Texas, that’s certainly not the case—the rates of improper unemployment payments are decreasing and are on the lower end in the country (even granting the Lone Star state commendation from the federal department for reducing their instances of abuse), according to mapped data via the Department of Labor. Like SNAP benefits, both programs require strict eligibility—recipients must be actively looking for work; for UI benefits, they must meticulously record and report weekly work search activities. If they refuse TWC or Workforce Solutions referrals for a suitable job, to apply for a suitable job or to accept a suitable job, they’ll be booted out of the program.

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