More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a halt this weekend, potentially impacting the recovering economy and setting up a battle when Congress reconvenes.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's "emergency unemployment compensation" will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the "emergency" program expire as part of a budget deal, it's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.
An estimated 1.3 million people will be cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments end Saturday. Across Florida, 73,000 recipients of federal emergency unemployment compensation stand to lose their benefits.
The average Florida benefit is about $230 per week, which is tied to the amount of wages earned over two weeks at a worker’s last job.
An additional 850,000 people nationwide will also lose state unemployment benefits over the next three months...
I'm a bit upset with not only the Republicans but also the Democrats in Congress, who both failed to recognize the serious issue we've got in this nation with the long-term unemployed.
While the overall unemployment rate has fallen to a nearly healthy (emphasis on the nearly) 7 percent (personal edit: a truly healthy unemployment rate is below 4 percent) – long-term unemployment has been more stubborn. The long-term unemployment rate, at 2.6 percent, remains as high as any previous recession since the end of World War II, reports the LA Times...
The long-term unemployed tend to be higher-educated and older, which are two strikes against them when the only jobs left open to them would be lower-wage service economy jobs that will not hire anyone with a college degree and an expectation of a pension plan. Trust me: I've been in that boat for 4 years, where applying to places like Target and Wal-Mart led to either rejection or silence. I swear, Target emailed back the fastest rejection notice I ever got (clocked in at 10 minutes, I sh-t you not).
My problem with the Republican leadership who think ending these benefits would force the long-term unemployed to "get off their asses and take any job they can," they're overlooking the fact that HR departments get their pick of the litter in this jobless recession and those HR departments are under no obligation to hire the better-educated, better-experienced. HR departments will hire those who work the cheapest and will be the easiest to train (re-training older workers is harder than training fresh minds), and HR departments won't hire someone with education and background in other fields because those employees may bolt for an opening they do qualify for and pay better.
When I got into a shouting match with my twin brother two years ago, he thought much like the GOP did, that I was just loafing about and living off the unemployment benefits (and my parents' financial help). He never sat with me during my daily job hunts, he never saw the rejection slips I'd occasionally get from some of these companies, he never saw the statistics I'd sometimes get from the HR departments telling me there were 60, 75, 120 applicants for one opening, he never listened in to the phone call interviews I'd have with some firms who politely point out that I'm not really the best fit for what they're looking for... This is a problem: people don't get it, they don't get the fact that it's not our fault we're unemployed for so long...
There was a reason I was out of full-time employ for 4 years, and why I had a hard time finding or keeping any part-time employ: I was over-qualified for what was available on the local - Florida - job markets. That was the big reason dad insisted last year I needed to get shipped to Maryland and try up where my educational/research skill sets would be more attractive. Thank God for Bartow Public Library. But I have to admit: I lucked out at the right time with a decent job. The other long-term unemployed out there? What luck are they gonna find, Republican Congresscritters, when there's no money left to keep them afloat while they look?
My problem with the Democrats is that they're not taking this unemployment problem as seriously as they need to. For the love of God, the GOP was willing to shut down government and default on our nation's debts just for the lulz of it back in October: the least we should expect from a party like the Dems - who WANT government helping people survive and get out of this economic malaise - to fight harder, like force their own threats of cutting off something the GOP prize above all else, force Congress to stay open this holiday season, force the GOP to stand up there and get brow-beaten by the fact there are still too many unemployed Americans out here.
At what point will our own government wake up to the fact that the number one problem in our nation is that we do not have enough good jobs at good wages? At what point will we the voters put into office elected officials who will get off their asses and get us the jobs and high wages we need?