About a million long-term unemployed Americans will see their unemployment benefits phase out this year after getting benefit checks for as long as 99 weeks in many states and by year's end, another two million will see their checks cut off after having received a half a year of benefits, according to USA Today
The cutbacks, required by a federal law passed in February, are pushing some Americans into poverty and straining social services.
"There's going to be lots of people without any income still unable to find a job," George Wentworth, a senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project, told USA Today. "You're going to see these people not be able to feed their families and not able to pay their mortgages. It will have a devastating impact on a lot of local economies."
Workers who became unemployed in the recession and saw their benefits end by January 2010 had a poverty rate of nearly one in five, and about 40 percent had incomes below 200 percent of the poverty threshold, USA Today reported, citing a Government Accountability Office study.
The number of unemployed has fallen from 15 million to 13 million but the number of those collecting benefits has dropped even more sharply, USA Today reported. Next year only about one in four unemployed people will receive payments, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Wentworth believes some scaling back of benefits was warranted. The federal government spent $59 billion on extended unemployment benefits last year and the up-to-99-week periods of subsidies are unprecedented in any economic downturn, according to the paper.
"We're still in a world where you can't expect anybody to find a job within a specific period of time because there aren't enough jobs out there," Jesse Rothstein, economist at University of California-Berkeley, told USA Today. "I think it still calls for pretty long extensions."
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