While much of the media focuses on who wins and loses on Capitol Hill in the battle over extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the numbers of people who are the ultimate losers—unemployed people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits—keep adding up.
A new report from the National Employment Law Project estimates that 4.2 million people are expected to lose their unemployment insurance payments by February if Congress does not act to continue the emergency unemployment benefits program.
To hammer home the urgency of congressional action, the AFL-CIO is declaring Tuesday “a day of online solidarity with America’s long-term jobless workers.” The union is calling all people with Facebook and Twitter accounts to change their profile picture to an image representing jobless workers. And they are asking people to call their members of Congress to demand action on a one-year extension of emergency jobless benefits.
Meanwhile, Democracy for America, MoveOn, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, CREDO Action, True Majority and the Service Employees International Union declared an “emergency call-in day” to the Senate, telling members to ask their senators to reject any deal that makes an unemployment insurance extension contingent on continuing the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 a year.
“Even if President Obama won’t fight, the Senate can stop this disastrous deal from happening,” says the email sent by CREDO Action. “But they will only do it if they hear an overwhelming outcry from all of us telling them that we need them to to go to the mat to stop the millionaire bailout.”
The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs provide from 34 to 73 weeks of assistance beyond the maximum of 26 weeks offered through state-funded unemployment insurance. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 6.3 million people —more than 4 out of every 10 unemployed people—have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. The average duration of unemployment is 34 weeks, longer than it was in November 2009.
The extension of those unemployment benefit programs, however, is being held hostage by conservative senators, including all of the Senate’s Republicans, who are refusing to allow those benefits to be extended unless Congress also approves an extension of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. Plus, these senators continue to make the unprecedented demand—even in the face of 9.8 percent unemployment—that these unemployment benefits be “paid for” with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, while the Bush tax breaks on the wealthiest Americans are allowed to be added to the nation’s debt.
As we’ve stated before, 2 million people stand to lose benefits this month alone because of Congress’ failure to extend the unemployment benefits program when it expired November 30. [One million have already been dropped from the emergency benefit rolls in just the past six days, according to the AFL-CIO.)
While the right continues to argue, as Rush Limbaugh did today, that unemployment benefits are a drain on the economy and discourage workers from accepting an available job, the facts speak otherwise: Refusing to continue emergency benefits would mean the loss of 600,000 more jobs, because of the millions of jobless workers who would not be pouring any money into the economy.
On the other hand, the decision to fund the emergency benefits saved 800,000 jobs this year, according to the Council of Economic Advisers.
The National Employment Law Project has posted a state-by-state chart of the impact of the loss of jobless benefits that you can use when calling your member of Congress.