The federal government will soon have to decide whether to continue to cut millions of checks for people that can't get them any other way.
More than 6 million Americans will lose out on federal unemployment benefits in 2012 if Congress doesn't act soon, according to the National Employment Law Project, CNN Money reports. And in January alone, upwards of 1.5 million jobless Americans will lose their benefits should lawmakers fail to extend them. The report comes on the heels of statistics from the Labor Department that indicate the jobs crisis isn’t turning around any time soon. U.S. employers added 103,000 jobs in September, barely enough to keep up with population growth.
NELP’s view corroborates the White House’s, which said last month that if Congress doesn’t authorize extended unemployment benefits 6 million Americans would lose benefits after exhausting their state benefits.
As the recovery continues to tick along, more Americans could find themselves among the 6.2 million unemployed for six months or longer. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called long-term unemployment a "national crisis" last month, saying that the 45 percent of the jobless out of work for six months or more is at risk of losing their skills and attachment to the labor force. In a Rutgers study released last month, roughly 25 percent of respondents who were unemployed during the recession have found jobs, of those half are at lower-paying levels.
President Barack Obama included a measure that would reauthorize extending jobless benefits in the $450 billion jobs bill he sent to Congress last month. During the recession, Congress granted the jobless up to 73 weeks of extra benefits.
Still, getting the bill through a divided Congress may be nearly impossible. Republican leaders have already derided the bill as a piece of “class warfare" and object to the $50 billion it would cost to extend jobless benefits.
Some states have already cut their jobless benefits in an effort to stay eligible for the federal program that’s currently in jeopardy. Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill in March that will cut the time the jobless could receive state benefits to 20 weeks from 26 beginning in January. Missouri followed suit in April.
Extending unemployment benefits can often be controversial. Many left-leaning and some centrist economists have said that the benefits are necessary to keep unemployed consumers spending, while some conservative economists said extending the benefits will only prolong joblessness, according to The New York Times.
Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed for a Rutgers University study about Americans’ attitudes towards work, employers and government said they didn’t support extending unemployment benefits.