More than 1 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits tomorrow when the federal program of extended payments expires.
The program to provide financial assistance to long-term unemployed workers was first instigated in 2008 by President George W. Bush as the jobless rate climbed to 10% during the financial crisis, allowing many people to stay on the rolls for as long as 99 weeks, as opposed to up to 6 months under normal state programs.
While the number of long-term unemployed has reportedly dropped from nearly 7 million to approximately 4 million, they still account for more than a third of those who remain without jobs. That number, however, may be deceivingly low since many people have simply given up looking for work where there is none.
While Democrats agreed to let the benefits expire in the hope of preventing another budget gridlock with House Republicans who oppose extended benefits last month, that could have resulted in another government shut-down, many are vowing to make the issue a “top priority” and vote to extend payments for another three months when they return to Washington after New Year’s.