More than 1 million long-term unemployed workers a month will lose their unemployment benefits—the weekly check that helps keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table—if Congress doesn’t act by Nov. 30.
That’s the date the extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program expires. But Congress does not return to work until Nov. 15 and then will adjourn again for the Thanksgiving holiday, leaving just a few days when lawmakers are in town to extend the lifeline that has been so vital as unemployment continues to hover near 10 percent.
Click here to sign a petition to Congress to act quickly and extend the UI program before it expires Nov. 30.
Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), says that in 2009 alone, UI benefits have kept 3.3 million American families— including 1.5 million children— from falling into poverty.
With the holiday season approaching, it would be especially cruel to families and bad for businesses to cut off these benefits. Any cuts would also be a drastic departure from how unemployment insurance has functioned ever since the Great Depression; Congress has never cut back on federally-funded jobless benefits when unemployment is so high.
NELP in recent days launched an online campaign—UnemployedWorkers.org—as resource to mobilize support and push Congress to act before the Nov. 30 deadline. That will be a big lift because for the past two years, Republicans have tried to block every extension of the extended UI program. Says Owens:
Congress took seven weeks to reauthorize the extensions when benefits expired last June, and in that time, more than 2 million unemployed Americans and their families lost their jobless benefits.
Some Republicans and radio blowhards (see video) have even claimed unemployment insurance benefits—an average of just a little more than $300 a week—make jobless workers so comfortable, they won’t go out and look for work. Not that there’s much out there. Owens calls the claims “insulting and infuriating.”
In the video, Christopher J., a marketing professional out of work for more than a year, says:
There’s no such thing as pickiness when you don’t have a job. I have tried every job. I will go and apply for a maintenance position. I have done that maintenance position when I was in college.
- Fact sheets on the jobs crisis and the role of unemployment insurance in rebuilding the economy.
- Weekly tracking of jobless claims data, national and regional unemployment news and other items related to the recovery.
- Online actions, including a petition to Congress, call-ins and letter-writing to elected officials.
- Workers’ stories, in blog posts and videos, and a forum for workers to contribute their own.
- Real-time feeds on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
- Expert advice for unemployed workers about jobless benefits.
This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.
About The Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.