POLITICS
06/30/2010 09:54 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Unemployment: Congress Has Never Before Dropped Extended Benefits With Jobless Rate So High

Though the jobs crisis shows few signs of abating and the unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent, Congress allowed extended unemployment benefits to expire at the beginning of June, causing so far more than 1.2 million long-term unemployed to miss checks.

During normal times, state provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for workers laid off through no fault of their own. Federally-funded extended benefits have given the unemployed additional weeks during eight recessions since the 1950s. If Congress fails to reauthorize the current round of extra jobless aid, it will be the first time since then that extended benefits have been allowed to expire when the national unemployment rate is above 7.2 percent.

"This is both unfair to the unemployed, who face a historically difficult situation through no fault of their own, and economically unwise as it threatens the prospect of a strong and sustainable recovery," says a new report from the National Employment Law Project and the Center for American Progress. "The consequences are obviously dire for those Americans out of work, and could be equally devastating for employed Americans who are counting on a sustained economic recovery to keep their jobs and boost their earnings."

The report shows that in previous recessions -- in 1973, for example -- extended benefits have been left in place until unemployment dropped to as low as 5 percent.

HuffPost readers: Have you been affected by the current lapse in benefits? Tell us about it -- email arthur@huffingtonpost.com.

The stimulus bill and subsequent extensions gave the unemployed up to 99 weeks of benefits in some states -- an unprecedented amount of help. When it came time to reauthorize the extended benefits in May, conservative Democrats in the House and Senate had lost their appetites for stimulating the economy with deficit spending. Despite authoritative reports to the contrary, many members of Congress suspect the extended benefits discourage people from looking for work.

Both chambers of Congress are currently scrambling to pass standalone unemployment bills after a broader domestic bill that included a reauthorization of extended benefits stalled in the Senate. If Congress manages to reauthorize the benefits, people who prematurely exhausted will be paid retroactively.

Click HERE to download a PDF of the report from NELP and CAP.