BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Cold Turkey — and Cold Holidays — for the Unemployed
Over 1.2 million Americans will face a cutoff in unemployment benefits in December if Congress (which returns to work for a week in mid-November) does not extend the emergency unemployment insurance program for the long-term unemployed before it goes home for Thanksgiving, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project. The map below shows the number of weeks of benefits now available in each state (click here for details): If Congress fails to extend the emergency program before its November 30 expiration, the number of available weeks will drop significantly: According to the NELP report, which includes state-specific estimates, the 1.2 million affected workers consist of:
- over 385,000 workers who became unemployed within the last six months and are receiving benefits through their state’s regular unemployment insurance system but will not receive any federal benefits once those state benefits expire; and
- over 825,000 workers who became unemployed more than six months ago, have exhausted their regular state benefits, and are receiving federal benefits, but will see those benefits cut off much sooner than expected if the federal program expires November 30.
Unemployment benefits are the only form of income for many workers who are out of work and looking for a job. Cutting off their benefits right at the start of the holiday season would be painful not only for them and their families, but also for local businesses — whose biggest single problem lately, as the New York Times’ Economix blog has noted, has been weak sales.