The EUC, first passed in June 2008 and renewed 11 times since, expired on Dec. 28. That instantly stopped government compensation checks to 1.3 million Americans who had been out of work for more than 26 weeks. The average recipient gets $269 a week. In a conference call Friday, Democrats said another 300,000 have been cut from the rolls in the three weeks since as their state compensation expired. In most states, that happens when they have collected compensation for 26 weeks, although seven states have now reduced that duration to as few as 18 weeks.
If no renewal agreement is reached, it's estimated that 4.9 million Americans will be affected in 2014. That includes those who have already been cut off and those without jobs who will reach the end of their state compensation period during the upcoming year.
Economists say the damage won't just be to individuals already receiving compensation but to somewhere between 210,000 and 300,000 people whose current jobs depend on consumer spending enabled by EUC checks.
Talks are still going on and Sen. Jack Reed said "significant progress" has been made on a proposal:
“There’s been a group of folks who’ve been talking seriously and thoughtfully,” Reed said Friday. “We’re looking at different approaches, and I think at this point we’re trading ideas. I don’t want to presume we’ve got a solution but we’re working as hard we can to get one.”
Still, a solution that can garner the support of five Republicans has yet to be presented, a top Democratic Senate source said. And without a breakthrough, Senate Democratic leaders could choose to bring an already rejected unpaid-for, three-month extension of benefits back up for a vote as soon as next week.
What kind of trades might be made is the rub. Republicans want renewed compensation paid for with budget cuts in other areas, and they inevitably choose social programs for their ax, never something like, say, fossil-fuel subsidies or the Pentagon toy budget.
Since the week before Christmas, Democrats—who now have little direct leverage after giving up trying to include the EUC renewal in the fiscal 2014 budget—have been painting Republicans as obstructionists by getting local media to focus on the damage caused by the compensation cut-off in their home turfs. That's produced some bullseye headlines and articles. The question is whether it will generate enough Republican votes for renewal without Democrats having to give up something else Republicans would like to chop. At the moment, the answer seems to be "no."