When Republicans in Congress chose in December not to renew the federally funded emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) program for Americans who had been out of work for six months or more, 1.3 million people suddenly lost the small weekly check they were using to tide them over until they could find a job. About 10 percent, 130,000 of them, were military veterans.
Since then, some 1.7 million more people have lost out on the compensation first passed by Congress six years ago this month. About 155,000 of them are veterans.
The EUC program was meant to ease, however slightly, the financial trauma of losing a job and not being able to quickly find a replacement. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) view of many Republican lawmakers is that out-of-work people who collect unemployment compensation are layabouts who would find a job if they didn't get the assistance the government checks provide. This disdain comes from politicians who make more than three times the median household income and turn every three-day holiday into a week or three of paid vacation.
The EUC was designed to deal with the impact of the Great Recession, just as emergency compensation programs had done during previous economic downturns. At the time it was passed in 2008, every state offered 26 weeks of unemployment compensation. Through a tiered system that depended on the rate of joblessness in a state, the federal program provided additional weeks of compensation—up to 73 weeks in the worst-hit jurisdictions.
No more. Not only is EUC renewal blocked in the House of Representatives, eight mostly Southern states have also passed laws in the past two years that cut the number of weeks they provide compensation from 26 to as few as 16. Georgia, where unemployment is still officially 7 percent, provides only 18 weeks of jobless compensation.
There's more to read below the fold.
Chad Stone at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities writes that military veterans included among those 3 million people who are up the proverbial creek with no paddle will reach nearly 300,000 by month's end on Sunday:
We estimate that about 1 in 10 EUC recipients were veterans (based on the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey, which shows that over the last three years, 9.7 percent of unemployment insurance recipients who were looking for work for between 27 and 73 weeks were veterans). Applying that percentage to the Labor Department totals, about 285,000 veterans have been cut off from EUC—about 130,000 when the program expired December 28 and even more since then who have exhausted their regular benefits and not received any EUC.
By the end of the year, some 5 million workers will have lost out on federal compensation they would have received after exhausting their state compensation. Around half a million of them will be veterans.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada on Wednesday introduced the "Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014" Wednesday to restore emergency compensation. It's only for five months and it doesn't apply retroactively as did the previous bill passed by the Senate but never voted on by the House. Rep. Dan Kildee, the Michigan Democrat, is introducing matching legislation in the House.
But given the ideological make-up of the House, chances of renewing the EUC program any time this year grow slimmer as the months pass. With election season underway, every member of the House ought to be grilled at every campaign stop about renewing the emergency program.
The long-term unemployed, after all, are not statistics, they are people, all of whom were eligible for the state and federal compensation programs only because they proved in the past that they were willing to work. But they can only work when there are enough jobs around for them to get one. Right now there aren't, and cutting off their compensation checks does exactly nothing to get them one.