Workplace Fairness

Menu

Skip to main content

  • print
  • decrease text sizeincrease text size
    text

‘Oil on the inequality fire’: How slashing jobless aid could widen the wealth gap

Share this post

Congress appears poised to dramatically reduce a federal program that has been providing an extra $600 per week for jobless workers since the spring.

How Congress decides to help the tens of millions of unemployed workers during the pandemic could determine whether the stark gap between America’s rich and poor will continue to widen amid a crisis that has already hit the lowest earners the hardest.

Economic downturns historically have been more damaging for the poor. But in the coronavirus-induced recession, low-income workers are disproportionately dependent on enhanced unemployment benefits in part because shutdowns have wiped out low-wage, in-person job opportunities in industries like hospitality and retail — and have made it dangerous if not impossible to search for other gigs.

More than two-thirds of those earning a salary of less than $25,000 are now out of a job, according to the most recent Census survey data — a number that has risen in recent weeks even as higher-wage sectors have shown potential signs of recovery.

The bottom quarter of wage earners comprise a full third of all recipients receiving jobless benefits, a larger proportion than any other sector, the Congressional Budget Office found. And they are the least likely to have savings to lean on to weather the crisis.

Now Congress appears poised to dramatically reduce a federal program that has been providing an extra $600 per week for jobless workers since the spring, the consequences of which will fall heavily on the lowest-wage employees, economists warn. That could exacerbate already staggering wealth and income divides, which have been growing for decades and which are larger in the U.S. than in any other nation in the G-7, a group of major developed countries. And it could hurt workers of color in particular, who are overrepresented in low-wage jobs.

“There’s a great risk that it will compound the existing inequalities,” said Chuck Collins, a director with the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. “Depending on how both the emergency stimulus response and recovery are designed, it could throw oil on the inequality fire.”

Spiraling inequality has significant ripple effects, economists say, and could contribute to political and financial instability in the country while worsening the economic recession. Moody’s, the credit ratings service, this month flaggedpersistent and growing racial and income inequalities in the U.S. as “potent forces” that are heightening social risk and could adversely affect the country’s economic and institutional strength.

At the same time, many economists argue that it will become more difficult and expensive for society in the long run to not help the most disadvantaged workers today. Hilary Hoynes, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who focuses on economic disparities, said children who have a lower quality and quantity of food have lower educational outcomes and less economic well-being throughout adulthood.

“So there’s a way in which not doing enough today is going to cost you more in the future,” she said.

Already, the wealth divide is dramatic: The top 20 percent of the country held more than three-fourths of all household wealth in 2016, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of consumer finance data. The bottom 20 percent held just 2 percent.

The coronavirus crisis is almost certain to worsen that. A May report led by economists from the International Monetary Fund found that recent major outbreaks, including H1N1 and Ebola, worsened income inequality for five years beyond the events. Without “deliberate and strenuous attempts to protect the most vulnerable segments of society,” the coronavirus’ effect on inequality could be greater than previous events, they warned.

Slashing the level of unemployment aid now, when new jobless claims are rising and as data shows roughly one job opening for every four unemployed people, will also hinder a recovery by sparking a drop-off in spending and reducing the amount of money flowing through the economy, analysts say.

As of early July, low-income consumers had cut their spending by just 2 percent from January levels, according to an analysis by Harvard economists, largely because their wages were supported by a combination of unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.

As Congress searches for ways to stimulate the economy, most economists say jobless aid is one of the quickest and most effective ways to get cash directly into the hands of those who need it most. Low-wage workers are likely to spend any aid money immediately. And despite its up-front cost, $1 of spending on unemployment benefits sparked an estimated $1.61 in economic activity during the Great Recession, according to a 2010 report by Princeton University economist Alan Blinder and Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi.

“If we get people unemployment insurance, if we get people the ability to feed their families, our entire economy comes out better on the other side of this,” said Martha Gimbel, a labor economist with the philanthropic group Schmidt Futures.

Meanwhile, the longer unemployment remains elevated, the more cyclical the consequences of joblessness become for the workers currently dependent on their weekly benefit checks. And the Congressional Budget Office forecast earlier this month that without further federal spending, the unemployment rate could remain heightened for years — not recovering to its pre-pandemic level for more than a decade.

“People aren’t going to be able to pay rent. They could face foreclosure. They may rack up huge credit card debts that will stay with them for years. Their credit rating is going to be affected, and that isn’t easy to fix,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “It’s incredibly expensive to be poor in the United States.”

Republican lawmakers, who initially opposed any extension of enhanced jobless benefits and remain divided over the path forward, are now pushing for a lower level of additional aid to remain in place. They say the $600 boost too often provides workers with more than they were making while at work and therefore provides a disincentive to return to their jobs.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the third-ranking Senate Republican, criticized the “bonus” $600 checks on Wednesday as a “heavy wet blanket on our economy” that will “stop people from getting back on the job.”

“You can’t pay people more to not work than to work,” Barrasso said on Fox News.

Democrats, meanwhile, have already voted to extend the extra $600 a week through the end of January.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the vice chair of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, acknowledged that while that step alone won’t reduce income inequality, “what we want to do is at least not make it any worse.”

“So far we’ve avoided the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ scenario of millions of Americans going hungry — of people losing their homes, people losing their cars, people just desperate,” Beyer said, referring to the John Steinbeck novel about the Great Depression. “That’s what we’re facing if we don’t re-up the unemployment insurance.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on July 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Megan Cassella is a trade reporter for POLITICO Pro.


Share this post

$600 weekly jobless benefit will likely lapse before more aid is passed

Share this post

Laid off workers would see a lapse in the additional benefits — reducing their weekly income by more than two-thirds in many states.

Congress will likely allow the $600-a-week boost in unemployment benefits to expire at the end of this month if lawmakers follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed timeline for the next round of pandemic aid.

When the Senate returns to Washington from recess next Monday, McConnell said he will begin “socializing” the GOP’s next rescue package and start the legislative process with Democrats. He said during an event in Corbin, Ky., Monday he expects that a bill will come together “sometime within the next three weeks, beginning next week.”

The $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit created under the March CARES Act is set to expire in the weeks “ending on or before July 31.” But because most jobless benefit payments end on Saturdays, economists say the last payment will actually land on the week ending July 25.

Although the GOP has recently signaled that jobless aid may be a part of the next rescue package, unless another bill is signed by the president before the aid expires, laid off workers will see a lapse in the additional benefits — reducing their weekly income by more than two-thirds in many states.

“Because state unemployment benefits need to be extended by July 25 in order to be processed by states administering their programs, McConnell’s announcement that the Senate will not even begin drafting or negotiating legislation until next week effectively makes a lapse in those expanded payments unavoidable,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), vice chair of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, told POLITICO in a statement.

Beyer said the Democrats’ HEROES Act, which passed the House in May, would extend those benefits through the end of January.

“Now we are out of time,” Beyer said. “All of this could have been avoided if McConnell had acknowledged the economic emergency facing our country and acted on it sooner.”

Republicans and the Trump administration have opposed extending the benefitat $600 a week but have recently indicated that unemployment insurance could be on the table in the next aid plan.

During another event at Rockcastle Regional Hospital Monday in Mount Vernon, Ky., McConnell said the next package would have a “continued emphasis on jobs, meaning unemployment insurance for those who are unable to get back to work.”

He said he’s been discussing the next legislation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said last week the GOP would “figure out an extension” to the enhanced benefits that works “for companies and for people who will still be unemployed.”

White House spokesperson Judd Deere told POLITICO that “maintaining UI benefits at current levels does not incentivize returning to work,” but added that “UI reform is a priority for this White House in any phase four package and we are in ongoing discussions with the Hill.”

Once the additional unemployment payment ends, out-of-work Americans could see their benefits drop by anywhere from 50 to 85 percent according to Century Foundation fellow Andrew Stettner.

The size of an unemployment check depends on the recipient’s income and on rules that vary from state to state, but the average weekly payment over the past year was $342, according to the Labor Department.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on July 14, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


Share this post

Unemployment claims climbed by 1.5 million last week, despite jobs gains in May

Share this post

The numbers suggest that some Americans are still being pushed out of work nearly three months into the pandemic.

Workers filed another 1.5 million claims for jobless benefits last week, the Labor Department reported, suggesting that some Americans are still being pushed out of work nearly three months into the pandemic.

Additionally, nearly 706,000 people applied for benefits under the new temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created for people who are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits. With those workers added, the number of new claims filed last week could be higher than 2.5 million, despite every state loosening stay-at-home orders and allowing businesses to reopen in recent weeks.

The latest figure indicates that the coronavirus-induced recession has forced roughly 44 million workers to seek unemployment aid in just 12 weeks. But that number likely includes duplicate applications, as some states have instructed workers to reapply if they were first found ineligible, and doesn’t include those seeking PUA benefits.

Economists suggest that the number of workers currently receiving benefits or waiting to get benefits is closer to 31.6 million. That number includes the workers who have filed “continued claims” — or those who are still seeking unemployment benefits for another week.

The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits has been slowly declining, but economists note that the amount of weekly jobless claims still remain at historically elevated levels.

“The 10th straight drop in initial claims is welcome, but they remain hugely elevated,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. He notes that following the 2008 financial crisis, the highest number of new weekly claims recorded was 665,000.

Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, pointed out that the number of laid off workers seeking another week of benefits has only declined by 17 percent from a peak of 22.8 million in early May.

If Americans continue to drop off jobless rolls at this rate, Stettner said it would take more than two years to get back to the pre-pandemic rate of unemployment.

California had the highest number of new claims last week, with an estimated 258,060 applications filed. Georgia followed with an estimated 134,711 new claims.

The new requests for unemployment assistance are coming even as some Americans are going back to work. The Department of Labor reported last week that 2.5 million jobs were unexpectedly added to the economy in May, despite widespread predictions that more than 7 million would be lost. The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May from a peak of 14.7 percent in April.

“The May jobs reports showed that a significant amount of people are moving back into work as employers are recalling temporary layoffs,” Nick Bunker, director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab, said in response to the figure. “In the absence of another surge in coronavirus cases, the labor market is likely to continue to grow. . . Hiring appears to be picking up, but is far below what the labor market needs for a robust recovery.”

The continued high levels of new jobless claims could be in part due to state unemployment agencies struggling to process the deluge of applications, some economists suggest.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, requested earlier this week that DOL open an investigation into Florida’s unemployment system, arguing the state has only processed payments for 28 percent of the applications it’s received since March. In New Jersey, state lawmakers want an audit of its unemployment system, citing complaints from constituents having difficulty filing jobless claims or receiving benefits.

And observers warn the economy has a long recovery ahead.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday projected that the U.S. economy will contract by 6.5 percent this year, and that the unemployment rate will only drop to 9.3 percent by the end of the year. The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Phillip Swagel, warned lawmakers Tuesday that the recovery from the coronavirus-induced recession is going to be more challenging to dig out of than the 2008 financial crisis.

But in Washington, the Trump administration and the GOP have seized on the falling unemployment rate.

President Donald Trump trumpeted the report as the “greatest comeback in American history” and Republican senators say they don’t plan to start working on another round of coronavirus aid until July.

Republicans say the positive news is an indication that the economy has “bottomed out,” adding fuel to their opposition of an extension of beefed up unemployment benefits that Democrats are seeking in the next relief package.

However, the unemployment rate in May was still at historic highs not seen since the Great Depression. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data also indicates about 6 million people have left the workforce since January.

The House has already passed a $3.5 trillion bill called the Heroes Act that would extend the $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit created under the previous relief package through the end of January. That benefit plus-up will expire on July 31.

“Unemployment benefits will still be needed past that date, of course,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday according to prepared remarks, “But the circumstances that originally called for the $600 plus-up will have changed; policy will need to change as well.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on June 11, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter. Prior to joining POLITICO in August 2018, Rainey covered the Occupational Safety and Health administration and regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, among other outlets.


Share this post

New unemployment claims rose by 1.9 million last week

Share this post

The coronavirus pandemic has forced roughly 42.6 million workers onto jobless rolls in just 11 weeks.

U.S. workers filed another 1.9 million new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor reported. The coronavirus pandemic has forced roughly 42.6 million workers onto jobless rolls in just 11 weeks. 

Another 623,000 people applied for benefits under the new temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created for people who are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits, suggesting the number of claims filed last week could be higher than 2 million. But there is likely some overlap between the claims reported for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and normal state programs.

“Even as states reopen, claims in the millions are an indicator that the economic pain of the COVID-19 crisis is still acute,” Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao said in reaction to the claims number.

California reported the highest number of new claims in its state unemployment program, with 230,461 filed last week. Florida followed with 206,494 new claims. 

The jobless claims figure, reported each week, comes ahead of Friday’s release of the unemployment rate for May. Economists expect that figure will show nearly one in five Americans were out of work in the middle of last month.

“The forthcoming May jobs report will amount to a shocking sequel to the April horror story,” wrote Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate. “It is likely to add further economic insult to the injury already established with the jobless rate. . . Millions more are expected to fall off of payrolls.”

The report also indicates that nearly 1 million workers dropped off unemployment assistance programs in the week ending May 16 (the latest data available).

The number of new weekly unemployment insuranceclaims has been slowly declining in recent weeks as states have begun to restart their economies. A recent Chamber of Commerce survey found that business fears about the pandemic have fallen in the past two months. 

Zhao noted that the weekly unemployment insurance claims may soon “understate the health of the labor market” as claims “remain elevated but hiring picks up.”

However, employers are struggling to navigate evolving rules and recommendations from the federal government around safely reopening and testing their employees for the coronavirus.

Businesses also complain that several of the aid programs created under the massive coronavirus relief package passed in March are too complicated and don’t provide enough relief to keep the economy afloat during the pandemic. 

Democrats and Republicans also have been at odds over whether to extend the enhanced unemployment benefits created under the CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief package signed into law in March. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he is opposed to extending that additional $600 weekly unemployment payment, which is slated to end on July 31.

But, Democrats’ latest $3 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by the House last month, would extend the additional payment through the end of January. 

A majority of the Americans who have filed “continued claims,” — or those who are still seeking unemployment benefits for more than one week — have likely been receiving payments, according to Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Taking a look at the seven week period from April 3 to May 23, Stettner estimated that 72.7 percent of those who filed continued claims were receiving unemployment insurance payments.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on June 4, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter. Prior to joining POLITICO in August 2018, Rainey covered the Occupational Safety and Health administration and regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, among other outlets.


Share this post

Reopening reality check: Georgia’s jobs aren’t flooding back

Share this post

A month after easing lockdown restrictions, the state is still seeing a steady stream of unemployment claims, economic data shows.

Georgia’s early move to start easing stay-at-home restrictions nearly a month ago has done little to stem the state’s flood of unemployment claims — illustrating how hard it is to bring jobs back while consumers are still afraid to go outside.

Weekly applications for jobless benefits have remained so elevated that Georgia now leads the country in terms of the proportion of its workforce applying for unemployment assistance. A staggering 40.3 percent of the state’s workers — two out of every five — has filed for unemployment insurance payments since the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread shutdowns in mid-March, a POLITICO review of Labor Department data shows.

Georgia’s new jobless claims have been going up and down since the state reopened, rising to 243,000 two weeks ago before dipping to 177,000 last week. The state cited new layoffs in the retail, social assistance and health care industries for the continued high rate of jobless claims that have put it ahead of other states in the proportion of its workforce that has been sidelined.

Georgia, which began pushing to resume economic activity on April 24, presents an early reality check as the White House amps up pressure on governors to lift shutdown orders and President Donald Trump’s economic advisers predict jobless claims will nosedive after the reopening. The state’s persistent unemployment numbers suggest that government restrictions aren’t the only cause of skyrocketing layoffs and furloughs — and that the economy might not fully recover until consumers feel safe.

Georgia, one of the last states to impose widespread shutdowns, has loosened restrictions on a broad array of businesses and dine-in restaurants since its stay-at-home order officially expired on April 30. Only bars, nightclubs, theaters, live music venues and amusement parks remain fully shuttered through the end of May.

Some laid-off workers have gone back to jobs since Gov. Brian Kemp first allowed gyms, bowling alleys, hair salons and other businesses to begin limited operations: The number of workers in Georgia remaining on unemployment assistance after an initial application dropped by 11 percent over the past two weeks. But others are still heading to the unemployment line for the first time. Georgia has now seen more than 2 million workers file for unemployment in nine weeks — out of the nearly 39 million who have applied for jobless benefits nationally.

Weekly new applications have gone both up and down in Georgia in the three full weeks of data released since the reopening began. They dipped slightly at first, then rose again before dropping again in the latest week, although at a slower rate than states like Louisiana and Kentucky that have seen similar levels of unemployment claims.

“It’s nothing significant enough to say, ‘Oh, there’s a huge surge,’ — but certainly nothing to signal there’s any return to economic stability or recovery happening right now,” said Alex Camardelle, a senior policy analyst with the nonprofit Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

There are many reasons Georgia’s jobless numbers are still going up, economists say, including that the state, like most of the country, is still whittling through a backlog of applications. State officials also say some laid-off workers are filing duplicate claims, which can artificially inflate the numbers. But the data still underscores how lifting stay-at-home restrictions alone will do little to bring jobs and spending back unless consumer confidence improves, bringing demand with it.

“Think of a restaurant: They’re not going to be able to bring back their entire staff because they’re just not going to have the clientele,” said Laura Wheeler, associate director of the Center for State and Local Finance at Georgia State University. “That’s going to hinder the return of the workforce, because while we’re going to open up, we’re not going to open up to the full capacity that we were at before.”

And in Georgia, public polling indicates that confidence has yet to return. Nearly two-thirds of Georgia residents in a recent Washington Post-Ipsos pollsaid they felt their state was lifting restrictions too quickly, and only 39 percent said they approved of Kemp’s handling of the outbreak.

“We’ve been chasing a bit of a false narrative that the economic hit is about the restrictions and not the disease itself,” said Julia Coronado, president and founder of Macropolicy Perspectives, an economic research consulting firm. “The economic story really isn’t about lockdowns, and we’re going to make mistakes by pursuing that narrative. It really is about the disease, and how fearful people are about getting sick, and how businesses are going to operate in a world where this virus is with us.”

At the same time, the Trump administration is pushing to get governors to reopen their doors in the hopes that doing so will help revive the U.S. economy.

Trump has amplified calls to “liberate” states and criticized governors he feels are moving too cautiously, often accusing Democratic leaders of playing politics. “You have areas of Pennsylvania that are barely affected, and they want to keep them closed,” he said during a visit to the state last week, a hit to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. “Can’t do that.”

At the same time, The White House is also closely watching state-level claims data and expects reopening to have a major effect, Kevin Hassett, a senior economic adviser to the president, said late last week. “My fear is that the places that stay closed could have sort of skyrocketing claims,” Hassett told reporters at the White House, adding: “The places that are turning on could actually see claims go way back down towards normal.”

But many economists dispute the idea that lifting restrictions will by itself mean a major boost to the labor market, in part because of evidence that layoffs accelerated in March separate from governors’ shutdown restrictions. A recent analysis by four University of California-Berkeley researchers found that the direct effect of stay-at-home orders accounted for only one-quarter of the jobless claims at the start of the crisis — suggesting that a majority of jobs that have been erased would have been lost even without statewide shutdowns.

A drop-off in consumer demand, disruptions to global supply chains and self-imposed social distancing measures all exacerbated the job losses and will likely continue to hinder the economic recovery after shutdown restrictions are removed.

POLITICO compared nine weeks of non-seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims to Georgia’s non-adjusted residential employment from February to determine the state’s jobless claims rate of 40.3 percent, which is currently the highest in the country.

It’s too early to know exactly why Georgia leads in terms of the proportion of its workforce filing for claims, economists say, and other states may well pass it in the coming weeks as they continue to process additional applications. The state did change its criteria early on to require employers to file unemployment claims on behalf of their employees in many situations, a move that supporters say simplifies the process and allows for quicker payouts. The state also now allows workers to earn as much as $300 each week without having their unemployment eligibility affected.

Others speculated that Georgia might employ more workers in industries like hospitality and healthcare that have been deeply affected, or that many residents are employed by small businesses that have struggled to survive during the pandemic.

But no matter the reasons, experts say the data offers an early indication of why millions of jobs across the country that were erased in mere weeks could take years to return.

“Reopening is certainly not a lights-on, lights-off situation,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. “These are companies that have seen a shock in their demand, and at a certain point, they can’t keep their workers on.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on May 21, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Megan Cassella is a trade reporter for POLITICO Pro. Before joining the trade team in June 2016, Megan worked for Reuters based out of Washington, covering the economy, domestic politics and the 2016 presidential campaign. It was in that role that she first began covering trade, including Donald Trump’s rise as the populist candidate vowing to renegotiate NAFTA and Hillary Clinton’s careful sidestep of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


Share this post

Extended Emergency Unemployment Compensation Will Expire for 2.1 Million Recipients on December 29

Share this post

This morning Meteor Blades reported that Jobless benefits claims drop again, but numbers could be skewed by holiday closures of state offices, including this sad news for those whose base unemployment payments have been used up:

Come Saturday, if the president and congressional leaders do not come to agreement on fiscal matters, some 2.1 million people will lose their benefits under the federal extensions. If those extensions are not renewed in the new year, an estimated 900,000 more people will lose their benefits by April 1. Some economists say that such a cut-off combined with the end of the payroll tax cut could, by themselves, throw the nation back into recession.

Arthur Delany picks up this theme in Congress Almost Certain To Blow Unemployment Deadline, telling us even if the special House session convened by Speaker Boehner should unexpectedly pass a solution to budget crisis, it will be too late for the 2 million unemployed who are receiving exgended benefits under the  Emergency Unemployment Compensation act:

Democrats have demanded a full reauthorization of emergency benefits through next year, which would cost $30 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The current regimen of benefits provides up to 47 weeks in states with high unemployment rates, for a combined 73 weeks of state and federal compensation. Jobless workers in only nine states are eligible for the full duration.

Republicans have been quiet about the benefits, which many observers consider a sign they won’t be a deal-breaker for the GOP. President Barack Obama included unemployment compensation when he called on Congress to pass a scaled-down “fiscal cliff” bill late last week.

Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says:

“I’ve never seen a public as energized or as knowledgeable about an issue as they are about the fiscal cliff,” Hoyer said. “I don’t mean that they know every paragraph, sentence, and ramification of the failure to stop going over the fiscal cliff, but they know it will not be positive. They know it will have a negative impact on the economy and they know it will have a negative impact on them and their families. And they are expecting us to be here to work, and we’re not.”

One advantage of rallying public compassion and outrage to extend these benefits as a stand alone bill, on its own merits, starting in the Senate, might be that we may end up having to make less severe concessions to the intransigent House Republicans to get an extension than we’ve apparently offered to House Speaker Boehner in the rejected “grand bargain” which is reported to have included chained CPI which would have cost seniors vastly more in human suffering and start the steady compounding reduction of the value to recipients essentially forever.

I hope Senate Majority leader Harry Reid proposes a stand alone bill extending these benefits we can rally behind, as well as as many other bills combining this with $250,000 threshold tax cuts, and Medicare doctors fix.  My hope is that if we are willing to play hardball, and rally public support around each component of the “fiscal cliff” we may get through the whole situation with the least possible damage to our common good and the constituencies that depend on the Democratic Party to defend their interests.

This post was originally posted on The Daily Kos on December 27, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.


Share this post

Millions Face Bleak Winter When Jobless Aid Ends Nov. 30

Share this post

Image: Mike HallMore 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.

UnemployedWorkers.org features:

  • 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.


Share this post

Follow this Blog

Subscribe via RSS Subscribe via RSS

Or, enter your address to follow via email:

Recent Posts

Forbes Best of the Web, Summer 2004
A Forbes "Best of the Web" Blog

Archives

  • Tracking image for JustAnswer widget
  • Find an Employment Lawyer

  • Support Workplace Fairness

 
 

Find an Employment Attorney

The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.