Will Unemployment Benefits Dry Up?

Many long-term U.S. unemployed workers have not only seen their job opportunities dwindle but many of them are no longer receiving unemployment benefits.

In early 2010, 75 percent of unemployed workers received checks but now the number has declined to 48 percent. With 14 million unemployed workers, almost one third of them have been without a job for one year or more.

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By the end of the year, Congress is supposed to determine if 99 weeks of emergency unemployment benefits could go to those in the “hardest-hit states.” However, for many of these workers they will be ineligible since they haven’t had a job for over 99 weeks.

Unemployment benefits weren’t designed for long-term stretches and in the previous three recessions, the longest unemployed duration lasted for 21 weeks in July 1983.

In today’s recession, the number is 39 weeks.

Many long-term unemployed workers have turned to foods stamps, with a record number seen in August at 46 million. This could keep growing.

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Government disability rolls have risen with applications jumping about 50 percent since 2007.

With unemployed workers continuing to live without work, the number of  poor people is also on the rise according to the Census Bureau; however, unemployment benefits have kept 3.2 million people from entering the ranks of poverty in 2010.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently called  long-term unemployment a “national crisis” and said that it should be Congressional priority.

When Congress votes for extended benefits in December, it will be the ninth time they’ve done this; however, it represents the first time a Republican-dominated House will vote.

If the benefits are cut, 2.2 million people will be affected in February. This shouldn’t come down to a partisan issue but may very well be as we approach an election year.

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