By the end of June, an estimated 285,000 veterans will be going without long-term unemployment benefits because Congress allowed the program to expire, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
CBPP estimated that about one in 10 recipients of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which gave benefits to workers who had been out of work 26 weeks or longer and had been cut off from state programs, were veterans. When the program was first allowed to lapse in December, about 130,000 who had served their country were cut off from that lifeline. In all, more than 3 million unemployed people who would have been getting the benefits are going without that source of income.
Senators reached a deal to extend those benefits and pay them retroactively to everyone who had been kicked out of the program earlier this year, but Republicans blocked its passage over objections to procedural rules. A new proposal to extend them was introduced on Tuesday by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV), which would give the long-term unemployed five months of benefits starting the day a bill is signed into law but wouldn’t offer them retroactively. The bill would cost $10 billion and would be offset with a variety of increases in revenue.
While Congress fights over how and whether to reinstate the benefits, 3.4 million people are experiencing long-term unemployment, about a third of all unemployed workers. And those cut off from benefits experience acute financial hardship. They have an elevated poverty rate and most have to borrow money or dip into savings to get by, while a third end up turning to other government programs.
While some felt that the lack of benefits would prod the unemployed to find jobs, those who get benefits actually spend more time job searching. Meanwhile, the lapse of unemployment insurance isn’t helping people get jobs. In Illinois, four out of five people who lost their checks were still unemployed two months later. In North Carolina, where long-term benefits were cut off before the program lapsed, the state is seeing the largest labor force contraction ever, likely signaling that many people are giving up looking for work.