In what is only the second most depressing read of the week, following the catfood commission chairs' mark, it seems that some of the people charged with keeping the tens of millions of unemployed American afloat don't understand what they need to do.
WASHINGTON -- Do members of Congress and their staffers understand that if they don't approve legislation to reauthorize federally-funded extended unemployment insurance by the end of November, two million layoff victims will prematurely stop receiving benefits during the holidays?
Apparently, many of them do not.
"We found ourselves over the weekend in a conversation with two public opinion analysts who were telling us that they didn't think there was that much public support for this," Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told HuffPost on Wednesday. "And they thought by 'extend,' what we meant, and what the administration is proposing... was to not let anybody ever go off the side and to just keep adding weeks, which is not what anybody is talking about at all."
"They told us that they thought a number of members of Congress and their staff were similarly confused," Greenstein said.
Unfortunately, the proposal that these members and staff seem to think is facing them--another tier of benefits for the 99ers, the people who've exhausted their benefits--appears to have less than a snowballs chance in hell of being considered. But what Congress does need to do, and needs to do next week, is reauthorize the existing benefits which will expire on November 30. Not passing the extension would set disastrous precedent.
As the CBPP pointed out on Wednesday (and as HuffPost has reported), Congress has never allowed extended unemployment insurance to lapse when the national unemployment rate is above 7.2 percent. The current rate is 9.6 percent and it's not expected to go down anytime soon.
If Congress reauthorizes the extended benefits for only a few months -- as it has done four times in the past year -- then they'll come due for another reauthorization in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told HuffPost that the jobless won't get any help next year from incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Hopefully, House leadership will do some educating, and do it fast, or it's going to be an incredibly grim holiday season for millions and millions of Americans.