By Wiha Powell
As we all know, unemployment benefits are one of the most effective forms of stimulus provided by the government. Often, that money is badly needed by its recipients and is spent immediately. But on December 28, 2013, four days before the New Year, the emergency federal unemployment insurance expired.
Once again, we witness Congress’ inability to act. That inaction has affected more than 1 million jobless Americans and could affect tens of thousands more if Congress fails to act soon. The emergency federal unemployment insurance was enacted in 2008 and provides up to 47 weeks of benefits to individuals still looking for work, once their state unemployment benefit ran out.
Congress’ inaction has ruptured a vital lifeline for many jobless Americans. It also means that in 2014 the nation could suffer a significant decline in job growth. A failure to restore the federal unemployment insurance will cost the economy 200,000 jobs this year, which pushes hundreds of thousands of Americans below the poverty line, resulting in a significant impact on the nation’s economy.
Already, states have seen millions drained from their economy since the lapse. According to a recent analysis by the House Ways and Means Committee, the expiration of the federal unemployment insurance has already taken more than $400 million out of the pockets of job seekers and state economies. For instance, in states like Illinois, nearly 82,000 people lost an average of $313 in weekly benefits for a total statewide economic impact of $25 million. In Ohio, more than 39,000 people lost an average weekly benefit of $312 for a total statewide economic impact of $12 million.
Congress reconvened on January 6. Renewing the federal unemployment insurances should have been at the top of the agenda. However, according to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s recent memo outlining the lower chamber’s agenda for the first few weeks of the year, no mention was made of extending unemployment insurance benefits, instead mentions where made of the House’s renewed attack on Obamacare and concerns about the HealthCare.gov website.
In his memo, Cantor stated that, “We must, as always, remain focused on our conservative policies that can help grow the economy, lessen the burden of government, and provide opportunity for America’s hard working taxpayers. Our conservative policies have proven to provide the solutions to the challenges families are facing including increasing economic security and creating more opportunity for advancement.”
Clearly, our government is delusional and has abandoned the American people. Everyday Congress fails to act means tens of thousands of jobless Americans are without their unemployment benefit as they try to get back on their feet after the worst recession in generations.
It is the start of 2014 and our leaders would find it very difficult to justify losing 200,000 jobs, while allowing more than 1.3 million jobless American to lose their unemployment benefits, pushing them below the poverty line.
Congress let’s start off the New Year with a renewed focus, which is implementing policies that actually benefit the American people.