Millions of unemployed people would lose their jobless benefits in 2014 unless Congress extends the current program, according to The New York Times.
Congress is likely to adjourn in two weeks without passing an extension, which will result in 1.3 million people losing their benefits by the end of the year and 850,000 more being taken off the rolls in the first quarter of 2014.
Overall, said Gene Sperling, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, jobless benefits will expire for up to 4.8 million people through 2014.
To help the long-tern unemployed and their families during the deepest recession since the Great Depression, Congress agreed in 2008 to extend the number of weeks for jobless benefits, and has continued to extend the unemployment-insurance program since then, costing an estimated $250 billion to date.
According to the Economic Policy Institute,
4.1 million workers have been unemployed for more than six months, more than three times the number of long-term unemployed in 2007, before Obama was elected. Nearly 37 percent of these workers have been unemployed for more than six months, which is nearly 20 percent higher than the 2007 average of 17.5 percent.
Democrats are hoping unemployment insurance will be extended as part of a budget deal to avoid another government shutdown.
"Historically, there has not been a time where the unemployment rate has been this high where you have not extended it,” Sperling said. “Why would you not extend now, when you’re dealing with the nearly unprecedented levels of long-term unemployment coming off such a historic recession? This would be the wrong time to do it.”
But contentious budget talks between the House and the Senate are concentrating on changing the sequestration cuts, and so far have not included plans for another unemployment extension.
Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and chairwoman of the Budget Committee, is working with Republicans to have unemployment insurance extended in the deal, a senior aide told the Times.
And William Allison, a spokesman for Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and the House budget chairman, said, “he hopes both parties can work together to cut spending in a smarter way.”
The Times says about 2.5 million unemployed people who have been out of work at least six months already have lost jobless benefits.
The Economic Policy Institute predicts that 310,000 people will lose their jobs in 2014 if unemployment insurance expires.
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