As of Saturday, December 28, 2013, 1.3 million unemployed workers lost vital long-term jobless aid in the form of unemployment insurance benefits. The U.S. Congress denied passage of a provision that would have extended these benefits beyond the current 72 weeks allowable. Republicans voted the provision down largely in the interest of making certain the funds to pay for the benefits are already identified; that is how the government will pay for them. The President and the Democrats wanted the extension of the benefits in place for the next three (3) months, while identifying the funding for the benefits. Sam Stine characterized it as "the quiet death" of long-term jobless aid.
Government unemployment benefits are designed to provide household income to separated workers who meet certain conditions. They must have been employed for a certain number of weeks prior to their separation from their jobs. Also, their loss of employment must be through no fault of their own. If a worker quits or if he or she is unable to become gainfully employed, he or she is not eligible for u.i. benefits. For those meeting the state mandated requirements, the monies are available for about 26-27 weeks according to the state in which you reside. Once the state benefits have been exhausted that is when the Federal jobless benefits kick-in.
Federal unemployment insurance benefits have extended to 72 weeks. The extension would have allowed workers who to continue receiving monetary benefits through March, 2014. Now this portion of their household income(s) are no longer available. While older workers are disproportionately affected by stretches of unemployment, it is also true that the longer a worker is out-of-work, the more difficult it becomes to obtain work. Republicans like Rand Paul express his disagreement with the extension as a "disservice" to unemployed workers stating by allowing a means for persons to maintain their households for long-term stretches of unemployment renders them less attractive as potential job candidates. Human resources personnel acknowledge, given the choice between hiring a candidate who has been unemployed for four (4) weeks versus sixteen (16) weeks, 100% would prefer to hire the person out-of-work for less time. This characterization, however, does not address the plight of persons who in-fact, find themselves among the ranks of the long-term unemployed. In that instance, is the best course of action to leave them to fend for themselves?
Until this point in history, Congress has never allowed unemployment benefits to lapse. Chronically unemployed workers were caught in the middle of the ongoing political differences between democrats and republicans. The choice to allow the benefits to lapse denies the difficulty some are experiencing in finding work.
Workers who lost their long-time and full-time incomes are facing difficulties. Beleaguered families already operating under stress and fears for the future, have had the safety net pulled from under them.Workers such as the single-mother in Herndon, VA who has been depending upon her unemployment insurance to sustain herself and her son until she obtains a full-time job. Workers such as a head-of-household in Chantilly, VA whose federal contractor position was eliminated, now face a loss of access to these monies to pay mortgage, utility bills and other living costs. With unemployment still above 7% in some areas, the job market just hasn't progressed to the point where everyone looking for a full-time position is able to get one. Even in Virginia where unemployment is low, the problem is there are not enough full-time jobs for everyone who wants one.
There are a couple of looming deadlines to pass additional measures of the budget bill. If Congress or at leastg the Democrats and a couple of Republicans can pass a bill including 3 MIL for a short-term jobless aid funding measure, we have until January 15, 2014 to accomplish this. There is still hope that Congress will establish a meeting of the mind to accomplish what is best for America.