Extend Unemployment Benefits: Help Make the Holidays Bright for Millions of Americans

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While Congress is preparing to return to their home states to share in holiday festivities with their family members, millions of working Americans are bracing themselves for the expiration of their unemployment benefits. This post is written to remind the fortunate among us that as winter festivities continue across the country for many, there are literally millions of other Americans who are sitting at home right now, waiting to hear if they will have basic needs such as food and shelter met next month.

Federal unemployment insurance has proved vital support for millions of struggling families across our nation. Unemployment insurance for millions of citizens is slated to expire on December 28, 2013. The Economic Policy Institute says more than five (5) million U.S. workers have been unemployed longer than six months. This is more than four times the number of long-term unemployed before the onset of the Great Recession.

The National Association of Working Women remind us that, “…Nearly 8 million workers and their families have been kept afloat by the extension of the federal unemployment insurance program while they search for work in this tough economy. Long-term unemployment is at a level not seen since the Great Depression– over 42% of all unemployed have been without a job for over 6 months, and 30% (4.4 million workers) have been out of work for over a year.” The National Association of Working Women asks that we help give struggling families something to be grateful for by telling Congress to extend long-term unemployment benefits.

“The unemployment benefits these struggling families receive kept at least 3.3 million Americans from falling into poverty in 2009 alone, including 1.5 million children.” Until the national unemployment rate shows measurable signs of improvement and the economy begins generating meaningful numbers of living wage jobs, the program of federal jobless benefits should be continued by Congress. Extending unemployment benefits will not simply benefit the enrollees but our national economy. I know that to some it sounds counter-intuitive but continuing to support long-term unemployment benefits will help facilitate the growth of our economy—but it is true.

“How could unemployment insurance payments to these Americans help the economy? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says every one dollar of unemployment insurance benefit grows the total economy by $1.10. And every one million of the benefit adds six new American jobs. Moreover, unemployment insurance has more economic impact than many other spending proposals according to the CBO.”

The Brookings Institution states, “Families on UI rely on it to maintain necessary spending, thus the money is rapidly spent rather than saved. Absent such benefits, spending would fall sharply, resulting in hardship on not just their families but also on the shops and workers that depend on those consumers.”

The provision of Extended Unemployment benefits has been part of every response to recessions since 1958, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Our country has never permitted benefits for the long-term unemployed to expire when unemployment was above 7.2 percent.

Allowing these benefits to lapse will be nothing short of a disaster for families and our economy. With that said, it is time for each of us to tell our Representatives in Washington to ensure that ALL Americans can celebrate this season. To accomplish said goal, call 1-888-245-3381 NOW and ask your Representative to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits.

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