1.3 Million Americans Lose Unemployment Benefits Today. Here's Who to Blame.


Source: The Washington Post

The news: Approximately 1.3 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits on Saturday. Why? As usual, because Congress messed up.

Congress failed to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation – unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed – which means everyone unemployed for longer than 26 weeks is going to see their benefits dry up. 

Unemployment insurance is typically good for 26 weeks. But because of that whole economic collapse and Great Recession, Congress passed the EUC and extended benefits for up to 73 weeks, giving those struggling to find a job more time and relieving the stress of being jobless. That’s a pretty big deal. But now, thanks to Congress’ ineptitude once again, that extension is expiring. Meaning benefits are going back to a 26-week limit – leaving anyone who has been without a job for longer than that S.O.L.

How we got here: Remember the budget drawn up by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray that just passed Congress with bipartisan support? Everyone cheered that it maybe, hopefully meant that Congress was able to pass something again. Well there was one thing missing in the budget deal: an extension of unemployed benefits. 

A few key Republicans have come out vocally against extending unemployment benefits, like Rand Paul who called an extension a “disservice” and said that benefits for the long-term unemployed are “causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.” Though Democrats in Congress hope to pass a bill early in 2014 to reinstate long-term benefits, this year has been surrendered.

And it’s a big deal. This hangs 1.3 million unemployed Americans out to dry. By June 2014, that number more than doubles. And through the end of next year, almost five million Americans will see their unemployment insurance come to an end because Congress couldn’t pass this extension.

Roughly 35% of the long-term unemployed live in households below the poverty line. More than 13% are single parents. According to the Urban Institute, “blacks, relative to other groups, are disproportionately represented among long-term unemployed and discouraged workers,” at almost 23%. The groups hit hardest by this expiration are the ones already at the margins. And now Congress is making it even harder for them. Nice work, guys.

The longer you’re out of work, the harder it is to find a job. For those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks, the chance of finding a job is only 12% per month. The expiration of the EUC is taking away benefits from exactly the people who need them most.