Note to the 1.3 million Americans wondering if Congress will cut off their unemployment benefits at year-end: It's hopeless. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said Thursday that a deal to extend payments was all but dead, after a bipartisan budget deal between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) left out the measure.
"Long-term unemployed Americans … they wanna work, they can't find work. And they're just being cut off of unemployment benefits at a time of relatively poor economy and a difficult job market," DeFazio said. "That was an incredibly cruel parting statement of an arguably very cruel congressional year with a war on struggling Americans."
DeFazio's comments came during an interview with HuffPost Live. When asked whether there was "no hope" for an extension, DeFazio said that only theoretical possibilities remain.
1.3 million Americans from losing federal benefits. "We do have some possibility, I guess, in whatever is done as a continuing appropriations bill in January," he said. "One thing in Washington, D.C., whenever someone says 'Oh you can vote for it now 'cause we're going to fix it later’ -- later never comes. And I fear in this case later is not going to come.”
WATCH DeFazio's comments in the video above.
States fund six months of unemployment benefits for people who are out of work but looking for a job. Since the great recession hit, Congress has padded that timeline, and currently offers an extension to 73 weeks of aid. If Congress does not renew its extension by Dec. 31, millions at the 6-month threshold will be cut off. There are currently about three times as many people looking for a job as there are job openings in the United States.
DeFazio went on to predict that Congress might retroactively help military retirees, but that the unemployed were probably out of luck given GOP resistance in the House to anti-poverty aid.