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At Bat: Senate, On Deck: House

At Bat: Senate, On Deck: House

It’s Past Time To Extend Unemployment Insurance

In December instead of sending holiday gifts, conservatives in Congress sent Americans looking for work a huge block of coal, refusing to extend emergency unemployment benefits. Unemployment compensation is an insurance program people pay into for their entire working lives and cutting people off in their time of need with little notice is not only cruel, but also unfair. Since then, more than two million unemployed Americans have been struggling without this critical support. It has been devastating to them and their families, and also drained over $3 billion from our economy in January and February alone.

Today, after months of no movement on the issue, the Senate voted to move forward on renewing the expired benefits and is scheduled to take up a final vote to extend unemployment insurance in the next few days. Then, it is up to the House. American workers can’t wait any longer:

Here’s What Happens When People Lose Benefits: Their poverty rates rise, they turn to public assistance, and they fall back on family members or nest eggs. In 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that the poverty rate of people who had exhausted benefits was five perfect higher than the general rate and 40 percent lived on the brink of poverty. A third turned to government programs to make ends meet, while 90 percent relied on a family member or money from retirement or savings.

Unemployment Benefits Help The Economy: Unemployment insurance supports the unemployed while they search for a new job, keeps millions of Americans out of poverty, and spurs economic growth. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, estimates that extending federal unemployment insurance benefits will create 200,000 new jobs in 2014 and boost U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, by 0.2 percentage points. Unemployment benefits can help people stay in the labor force and keep looking for work for a few reasons. The biggest is that in order to get them, recipients are required to actively search for work, and those who receive them spend more time doing just that than those who don’t. Other research has confirmed that getting these benefits doesn’t discourage people from trying to get back to work. Benefits also help job seekers afford the costs of internet access to search job listings and send out applications, gas money to get to interviews, and new clothes for those interviews that they might have to cut back on otherwise.

BOTTOM LINE: It is unconscionable that conservatives have left over two million Americans struggling to find work out in the cold. It is past time to extend emergency unemployment benefits. The American people and our economy cannot afford this to continue. The Senate should pass the measure quickly and the House should follow suit.