Unemployment Extensions End (Thanks, Congress)
By amapofcalifornia on January 03, 2014
For a lot of us, Saturday was the end. Adíos. Sayonara.
Goodbye, federal unemployment extensions.
As Congress has failed to renew the four tiers of federal unemployment extensions, the enabling legislation passed last year quietly expired on Saturday. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Many of us will receive our very last unemployment benefit checks this week. I am willing to bet a nickel that a good number of those affected have no clue. Sure, they’ll get a little notice in their envelope. As if anyone bothers to read those.
So, how many are being summarily cut off? About 1.2 to 1.3 million nationally, 222,000 here in California alone. By the end of 2014, it is estimated that nearly 5 million Americans could be affected.
I consider myself lucky. I am still on my “initial claim,” receiving state, not federal, unemployment benefits. But those only last for 26 weeks. I was laid off on September 27, which means I am now halfway done. If I do not obtain gainful employment by the end of March, I will be on my own.
I ought to add a sidebar to my résumé (not that anyone wants to see those anymore). It should read something like this: CONGRESSIONAL SPECIAL! Halfway through and accepting deep salary discounts! Call, text, email or tweet now!
In a couple of weeks, I will change the font and color for the next promotion: MLK DAY SPECIAL! Ten weeks left til I’m broke! Hire now and pay me less!
A month down the road, I’ll cut and paste some little clip art silhouettes of George and Abe: PRESIDENTS DAY SPECIAL! Only six weeks til poverty! Patriotic employers, hire now and improve the American economy!
As a last ditch effort, in mid-March I shall turn my entire résumé green: ST. PAT’S SPECIAL, LAST CHANCE! Final grains of sand in the hourglass! Only two weeks left! Hire me on the cheap before I’m out of luck!
Perhaps it won’t come to this. There are currently six bills in Congress (three each in the House and the Senate) that would provide out-of-work Americans with various types of benefit extensions. There is a possibility that one or more of these may be voted on and approved after Congress returns from its New Year’s break on January 6. Personally, I think our elected representatives are lily-livered, insensitive, gutless wonders to allow federal unemployment extensions to run out and then head off on vacation.
The Democrats are blaming the Republicans (what else is new?), but not everyone on the Democratic side of the aisle wants to spend the $26 billion needed to renew unemployment benefit extensions either.
President Obama, who has taken so much flak for the Affordable Care Act, unsuccessfully urged Congress to extend benefits rather than allowing them to expire. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urges the restoration of unemployment benefits to be Congress’ first priority upon legislators’ return to the Capitol.
One thing that seems fairly certain is that if any extensions are approved, they will not be retroactive. So let the suffering begin and, hmm, happy new year?
It is no secret how being cut off from unemployment benefits will affect the 1.2 million. Many have no savings and will effectively have no source of income whatsoever. They will be unable to pay their bills, right down to food, rent and heat (um, it is wintertime, folks). There will be an increase in evictions, with homeless families crowding the shelters or sleeping out of doors in the cold. Food banks, churches and emergency assistance services will be taxed even more than they already are.
And we can expect an increase in crime. Who is going to blame a parent for taking whatever measures are necessary to feed his or her children? Panhandling? Check. Shoplifting? Check. Petty theft? Check. Breaking and entering? Check. Better put out the “Welcome, Unemployed” signs at the entrance of the county jails. Police departments and hospitals had better add overtime shifts to their schedules. Why hospitals? Can you say “substance abuse?” How about “depression?” How about “domestic violence?” Try this one: “Hypothermia.” It’s a very big word, but I bet you can say it, children! Even you with the frostbitten fingers and toes.
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