PI Original Adam Doster Monday September 14th, 2009, 12:44pm

Congress Considers Second Unemployment Benefit Extension

While widely lambasted
by stimulus opponents as useless "social spending," it's pretty clear
that boosting the length and size of unemployment benefits has had a
positive effect on those struggling to find work during this recession.
The Center on Budget and ...

While widely lambasted by stimulus opponents as useless "social spending," it's pretty clear that boosting the length and size of unemployment benefits has had a positive effect on those struggling to find work during this recession. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report (PDF) we flagged last week estimated that 700,000 adults and children nationwide stayed out of poverty thanks to multiple federally-funded extensions (which provides 53 extra weeks in Illinois) while 100,000 avoided financial ruin because of the $25 per week increase in the size of the benefits.

Unfortunately, unemployment is still extremely high and many companies have not yet started to expand their payrolls. So tomorrow the Senate Finance Committee will take some time off from debating health care legislation to hear testimony about the need for another round of benefit extensions. The National Employment Law Project's Beth Shulman, who will testify before the committee on Tuesday, echoed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview with the Detroit News, calling the bill "absolutely imperative:"

Another 13 weeks of benefits for the unemployed in Michigan is "absolutely imperative," a workers' advocate will tell the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

Beth Shulman will try to convince lawmakers that the government has "to ensure that people can support themselves and their families," especially those in states with at least 8.5 percent unemployment. Michigan's jobless rate is 15 percent -- the worst in the nation.

"We are in the worst economic downturn since the Depression," said Shulman, who chairs the board of the National Employment Law Project.

A bill  (H.R. 3403) already exists in the House that would distribute an additional 13 weeks of coverage in states  -- like Illinois -- that are experiencing unemployment rates of 9 percent or higher. With over 50,000 Illinoisans expected to exhaust (PDF) their final benefits by December, now would be a good time to act.

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