Federal unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed expired last weekend, cutting off a vital lifeline for the 1.3 million people who have been searching for new work for six months or longer.
Why? Because Congress failed to reauthorize the program before the end of the year.
"One of the problems is that Congress does so little. How do you tell 1.3 million unemployed Americans that we just didn't get to the issue of extending unemployment benefits?" said CWA President Larry Cohen. "That Congress failed to act to extend benefits that would have helped long-term jobless workers in 49 states is an outrage. It's a moral issue, but also an economic one. All that money provided in unemployment benefits gets put back into the economy."
The emergency federal unemployment program started in 2008 – in the middle of the Great Recession – to provide up to 47 weeks of benefits for jobless Americans still looking for work after their state unemployment benefits ran out.
Right now, about 11 million Americans are unemployed. And there are more than 4 million people who have been unemployed for six months or longer – the worst long-term unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.
When Congress reconvenes on Jan. 6, it's expected to tackle whether to renew the program. An extension through 2014 would support 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Let's tell our lawmakers to act quickly.