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'Ohio Miracle' hurt more if Congress fails to extend jobless worker insurance

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In a White House conference call Thursday morning with reporters, Council of Economic Advisers Member Betsey Stevenson and Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest discussed a new report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers [PCEA] that details the economic benefits of extending unemployment insurance, including state-by-state statistics on the number of unemployed people aided by Emergency Unemployment Compensation/Extended Benefits.

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According to the report, failing to extend unemployment insurance benefits will lead millions to lose their benefits and harm our economic recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Betsey Stevenson, Member of the Council of Economic Advisers, said Republicans should want to support this program since it was initiated under former President George W. Bush.

The report contained a state-by-state report that shows that in Ohio, the accumulated projected number of unemployed affected in 2014 if EUC is not extended is 128,600. The 30-page report also showed that the number of Ohioans receiving EUC/EB benefits totaled 790,103.

In Ohio, the average weekly UI benefit amount is $318; the maximum weekly UI benefits and average is $413; the UI replacement rate is 45.5 percent. The state is among 43 states that offer 26 weeks of UI coverage compared to seven that offer fewer weeks.

According to the report, in no prior case has Congress allowed special extended benefits to expire when the unemployment rate was as high as it is today. The long-term unemployment rate, the reported noted, is twice as high today as in any prior month when extended benefits were allowed to expire.

President Bush signed an extended unemployment insurance benefits into effect in June 2008 when the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and a little additional increase was expected, the PCEA reported said, adding that the long-term unemployment rate was 1.0 percent and the average duration of unemployment was 17.1 weeks.

Meanwhile, as of last month, the unemployment rate is 7.3 percent, the long-term unemployment rate is 2.6 percent and the average duration of unemployment is 36.1 weeks, considerably longer than the 26-week duration of regular UI benefits prevailing in most states. "These statistics, combined with the historical patterns of UI extensions, point logically to the importance of Congress continuing extended benefits through EUC," the reported said.

Even though the nation's economy continues to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression—44 straight months of adding private sector jobs—more work remains to boost economic growth and speed job creation. "Despite ten consecutive quarters of GDP growth and 7.8 million private sector jobs added since early 2010, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high at 7.3 percent, and far too many families are still struggling to regain the foothold they had prior to the crisis," the reported noted.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program authorized by Congress in 2008 has provided crucial support to the economy and to millions of Americans who lost jobs through no fault of their own. Under current law, EUC will end in just 23 days on December 28. The PCEA report argues that allowing EUC to expire would be harmful to millions of workers and their families, counterproductive to the economic recovery, and unprecedented in the context of previous extensions to earlier unemployment insurance programs.

Josh Earnest, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, told reporters that congressional action will be necessary to extend emergency UI. But if comments made by one Republican House Member with close ties to Ohio Congressman and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, hurting workers can expect to hurt more.

With the jobless rate hovering just over 7 percent, The Washington Post reported that congressional Republicans are ready to let emergency unemployment benefits lapse on Dec. 31, immediately cutting off checks to more than a million recipients.

"I don’t see much appetite from our side for an extension of benefits. I just don’t," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and a member of the budget conference committee tasked with cutting a year-end deal on spending, told WaPo.

Without an extension, 4.9 million people will no longer have access to unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks in 2014, the report said.

All this adds up to moving backward, because if Congress fails to act, and the current programs expire in the last week of this December, more than 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers will lose their unemployment benefits at once, and millions more will have no benefits after their initial 26 weeks of UI payments are exhausted during the course of 2014.

"Without an extension, 4.9 million workers will be affected by the end of 2014, and employment will be lower by 240,000 in 2014," the report concluded.

Back in Ohio, Gov. John R. Kasich promised to return the Buckeye State's economy to better than the national average when he ran in 2010. But that promise has evaporated during his three years on the job.

With next year's governor's race well under way eleven months before voters go to the polls, Ohio Democrats are asking what happened to the "Ohio Miracle," Gov. Kasich's self-assessment of how his state is doing?

Under Gov. Kasich’s policies, state Democratic Party officials argue Ohio is headed in the wrong direction with more than 427,000 people out of work and an unemployment rate that has climbed back to 7.5 percent, higher than the national rate.

Another added level of difficulty is that unemployment benefits are included in the income calculation used to determine SNAP [food stamps] eligibility. Without unemployment benefits, the report notes, more families would be eligible to receive SNAP. Congressional Republicans have wanted to cut SNAP by tens of billions as part of the Farm Bill that is stalled in the U.S. House, despite the bill passing through the U.S. Senate on a bi-partisan basis.

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