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POLICY INSIGHT
BEYOND THE NUMBERS

Behind the Jobless Benefits Debate #6: What Happens with No Federal Emergency Unemployment Insurance?

The federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) program expired yesterday without Congressional agreement on how to keep it going, and the lights are going out on unemployed workers. As of today, people in 15 states who exhaust their regular state UI benefits (which typically last 26 weeks) before they can find a job will receive no additional weeks of benefits.  By the end of the month, workers in 40 states and the District of Columbia will receive no additional weeks. That’s 400,000 people who would have qualified for federal UI benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program but instead will get nothing, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).  Several hundred thousand more will join their ranks each month over the coming year if Congress fails to renew the program. NELP also estimates that over 800,000 workers now receiving federal UI benefits through EUC will have their benefits cut off prematurely this month, and more will be cut off over the next five months. Also expiring yesterday was full federal funding of the permanent Extended Benefits (EB) program, which provides additional weeks of benefits to the unemployed states with high unemployment rates.  States that wish to continue to provide EB will have to pick up half the cost.  With the end of federal funding, a large number of states that had changed their state laws to make it easier to provide EB are reverting to a more restrictive standard and shutting down their EB programs.  As a result, NELP estimates that over 800,000 workers will lose EB benefits as follows over the course of this month:
  • after the week of November 28th: almost 450,000 workers in 16 states
  • after the week of December 5h: more than 300,000 workers in 8 states
  • after the week of December 19th: 23,000 workers in one state (Massachusetts)
  • after the week of December 26th: 42,000 workers in one state (Michigan)
Never before has Congress ended a program of federal emergency UI benefits when jobs remain so hard to find — there are now five job seekers for every open job — and when the economy remains so weak. There are good reasons why Congress has always continued these temporary programs until the economy was back on track:  these benefits not only help millions of jobless workers and their families cope with the strain on their budgets from losing a paycheck, but also provide a critical job-creating boost to an economic recovery that is still struggling to gain traction. The map below illustrates how the picture has changed for jobless workers from last week, and how it will continue to darken in the coming weeks: Other posts in the series: