If some of your neighbors don’t seem too happy about the new year, it could be because Congress decided to go home and party without extending unemployment benefits.
After patting itself on the back for barely passing a budget deal, Congress left 1.3 million long-term-unemployed Americans without any obvious means of support. Lawmakers didn’t include an extension of unemployment benefits in the budget deal, so the program expired.
In addition to the current beneficiaries, an extension would have helped an additional 850,000 people who are expected to have been out of work for more than six months as of March.
The federal aid serves as a backup for people who have exhausted their state benefits, which typically last six months.
The premature discontinuation of these benefits threatens the economy as well as families. Benefit checks are quickly spent on necessities such as rent and food, fueling economic activity. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the loss of this $25 billion program could kill another 310,000 jobs.
The best news for the long-term unemployed may be that the House is up for election in 2014.The Philadelphia Inquirer