The single most frightening statistic out of this recession is this one: 41 percent of unemployed workers have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. This is vastly higher than in previous recessions.
26 weeks is the maximum length of time that workers can receive regular unemployment insurance, but as often happens during a recession, there has been a series of extensions, paid for at the federal level. These run out on Sunday. If nothing happens, 1.2 million workers will lose their benefits starting next week. Even if there’s a one or two day gap, it will cost state agencies a ton of money to reprogram their systems, and cause delays in workers getting their benefits. Extending them should be as closer to a no-brainer as exists in politics, but it is proving surprisingly hard. So, I’m begging everyone I know, call your Senator, and tell them:
1) Pass the short-term extension immediately so benefits don’t run out. It is unacceptable to hold 1.2 million workers hostage so that a few dead millionaires can pay less taxes.
2) Extend benefits until the end of the year. Congress has too much else to get done this year to keep passing short-term extensions and then having to take it up again. And workers need to know that they’re not about to be cut off.
3) Not everyone qualifies for unemployment insurance, and some people just want a job. The TANF Emergency Fund, created under the Recovery Act, gives states money for subsidized jobs for low-income parents, and also helps pay for rising cash assistance caseloads. It doesn’t expire until September, but states are doing their budgets now, and they’ll start shutting down their programs if they don’t know that the money will be available next year. Plus, because it’s part of TANF — aka “welfare” — it has almost no chance of passing on it’s own. So please tell your Senators to ask that it be extended along with UI.