Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Over 1 Million Have Lost Benefits

While Washington fiddles and holds extending unemployment benefits hostage unless tax cuts for millionaires are extended, over a million Americans are still unemployed and have lost their benefits.

From the BBC

"I thought I'd be back on my feet before I could blink my eyes," muses Theresa Iacovo, who has been out of work since September 2008.

The 49-year-old, who lost her job at the start of the economic downturn is one of the so-called 99ers - who get their name from the fact they have claimed 99 weeks of payments but are still unable to find a job.

She still hasn't found a job, and her extended benefits were cut off.

Now she has no income at all. She stays with a friend in New York and goes to food pantries to eat.

Theresa is one of an estimated five million Americans who have exhausted all their unemployment payments, and are no longer supported by any welfare.

In the Concord Monitor:

Karen Morgan already has no TV and no internet. She doesn't budget for food, instead picking it up at the local pantry she walks to from her apartment in Contoocook. This week, the cancer survivor skipped a doctor's appointment because she didn't have money for gas.


On Wednesday, Morgan became one of thousands in New Hampshire no longer eligible for unemployment benefits after the expiration of a federally funded extension of the program.


Until this past week, emergency jobless benefits lasted as long as 99 weeks for people in the hardest-hit states. But with five people unemployed for every job available, 99 weeks might not be long enough.

Since the 1950s, the federal government has consistently extended emergency unemployment benefits whenever the jobless rate has been more than 7.5 percent. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are using unemployment benefits as a sweetener for a deal on the Bush-era tax cuts, working on a compromise that would temporarily extend both policies.

Sustained high rates of unemployment could result in an unemployed underclass disconnected from the workforce, economist Kevin Hassett says


"The longer somebody doesn't have a job, the harder it is to get a new job," Hassett says. "The reality is that if you're out of [a] job, and you're looking for a job, then the new employer's going to say, 'Well, why don't you have a job now? What's wrong with you?' "

Hassett warns that sustained cyclical unemployment could become a "structural problem" if the number of unemployed people isn't cut soon."

Meanwhile, job creation is at a near standstill, the unemployment numbers are going up - and many in Washington find blaming the unemployed for being jobless is easier (and more politically popular) than actually addressing the problem. Over a million people have lost their benefits in the last week - yet very little reporting is being done on the people actually being affected. Unless the issue of long term unemployment is faced head on, Kevin Hassett's fears of a permanent unemployed underclass will become a solid reality.

Cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

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