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The Top 10 Reasons Congress Needs to Stand Tall on Stimulus

“Most striking is the sense of political paralysis in both chambers and an almost visceral hunkering down in the face of the tough choices ahead,” Politico’s David Rogers wrote this morning regarding the Senate’s failure thus far to approve pending jobs legislation.

There’s nothing funny about any of this, but with apologies to David Letterman, below is our top 10 list of reasons why Congress needs to find the courage to pass a serious jobs bill that (among other things) extends key pieces of last year’s Recovery Act that would provide additional unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, especially for the long-term unemployed, and fiscal assistance for states.

These provisions helped the Recovery Act provide jobs for as many as 2.8 million workers as of the first quarter of this year, and extending them would give the economic recovery a needed boost over the rest of this year.

  1. Nearly a million workers aren’t getting the UI benefits they would receive and spend if Congress hadn’t allowed the Recovery Act’s UI program to lapse on June 2; that number will climb to over 2 million if Congress fails to act before leaving for the July 4 recess.
  2. Unemployed workers in 36 states who run out of their 26 weeks of basic UI benefits receive no additional help now that the Recovery Act’s UI program has expired.
  3. The average jobless worker has been looking for work for 34 weeks — the longest stretch on record.
  4. Currently, there are five job seekers for every opening.
  5. The highest the unemployment rate has ever been when Congress allowed a temporary UI program for the long-term unemployed to expire was 7.3 percent (in April 1985).  Unemployment now stands at 9.7 percent.
  6. Thus far, the Recovery Act’s UI benefits have pumped almost $60 billion into the pockets of jobless workers, according to Recovery Act accounting data— and through them, into local economies.
  7. There are in the economy than when the recession started in December 2007; moreover, population growth since then has expanded the potential labor force and hence the number of jobs needed for full employment.
  8. States, localities, and school districts have cut 231,000 jobs since 2008 due to budget pressures, including 22,000 jobs in May alone.
  9. Without more federal aid, state budget-cutting actions could cost the economy 900,000 jobs in the public and private sectors next year.
  10. Because both houses of Congress passed an extension of state fiscal assistance earlier this year, most states incorporated it into their budgets for the fiscal year that started July 1.  (States’ combined budget shortfall for the year is $140 billion.)  If Congress reverses course and fails to approve the funds, at least 34 states likely will impose additional job cuts and service reductions.