Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that while he supports unemployment benefits for workers up to 26 weeks, he doesn’t support extending them beyond that cutoff.
“I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they’re paid for,” he said. “If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers.”
He went on to explain that a study showed that a worker who has been unemployed for four weeks and on unemployment insurance is more likely to be hired than one who has been unemployed for 99 weeks and receiving the benefits. But that mischaracterizes the situation: while many studies have shown that the long-term unemployed have a much harder time getting interest from prospective employers than those who have been out of work for a shorter period of time, it isn’t because of the benefits. Some employers say outright they just won’t consider anyone who has been unemployed for a lengthy period of time. Yet the long-term unemployed look very similar to the short-term unemployed — they’ve just had a harder time finding a job in an economy where there are more than four unemployed workers for every job opening.
But even with the cards stacked against them, there’s reason to believe that unemployment benefits help, not hurt, people in getting new jobs. Those receiving benefits spend more time job-hunting than those who don’t. That’s thanks both to the requirements of the program, which dictate a certain effort of looking for new work, and because the financial assistance can help with the basics of job hunting, like paying for internet service and gas, as Maurice Emsellem of the National Employment Law Project previously told ThinkProgress.
While most states provide unemployment benefits up until the 26-week cutoff Paul endorsed, federal benefits kick in after that. Yet the 1.3 million recipients will be abruptly cut off at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the program as it has 11 times since it was first enacted in June. The long-term unemployed still make up nearly 40 percent of all unemployed people even with an improving jobs picture.
Losing the benefits will mean losing a vital lifeline for many of these workers. Lillian Humphrey told ThinkProgress that she’ll have to tap into Social Security and yet still find a part-time job if she stops getting an unemployment check. Alan said that he will have to give up on his plan to train as an English teacher and move in with a friend in another state. John De Marchi will have to leave the career as a 3-D artist he worked nine years to enter and take a sales job to continue supporting his household.