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Poll Finds Strong National Support For Extending Unemployment Benefits

By Alan Pyke  

"Poll Finds Strong National Support For Extending Unemployment Benefits"

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Unemployment Benefits

CREDIT: AP

A majority of Americans believe Congress should restore the federal unemployment insurance program that it allowed to expire in the recent budget deal, according to a new poll. The details of the survey further suggest that voters stand ready to punish lawmakers who block an extension — something several Republicans have indicated they are prepared to do.

Overall, 55 percent of Americans believe the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program should be extended compared to 34 percent who say it should end, the Hart Research Associates poll found. Among women, 61 percent approve of the program and just 28 percent believe it should cease. The pollsters, who were working on behalf of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), also separated out a subset of respondents who fit the profile of a mid-term election voter. Among the sort of people who show up for off-year elections like the one awaiting Congress in 2014, 55 percent support extending EUC. Senior citizens are especially supportive of the program, and other constituencies that Republicans depend upon in November such as white women and non-college-educated white voters also exhibit majority support for EUC.

The findings reinforce a Public Policy Polling release from earlier this week which looked at specific House districts held by Republican members. That poll found over 60 percent support for extending EUC in five Republican districts including Speaker John Boehner’s southwestern Ohio seat.

EUC expires on Saturday. For 1.3 million current recipients who have been looking for work for longer than the 26 weeks for which most states will provide unemployment benefits, that will mean their lifeline evaporates immediately. Another 800,000 job-seekers are projected to exhaust their state benefits and turn to the federal EUC program over the next three months. Thanks to multiplier effects, the cancelled benefits will also lead indirectly to almost a quarter-million layoffs for people who are currently working. That’s nearly 2.4 million people harmed in the coming months by the expiration of EUC.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans have called for re-authorizing the program after lawmakers return from their holidays, and Republican support for the program used to be a very common thing. But some prominent GOP legislators now openly oppose the program and mischaracterize it as a balance-negative thing for the people it intends to help.

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