In the past twenty-four hours, both the White House and House Democrats have said they want an extension of unemployment benefits included in the upcoming budget deal—and now senior Senate Democratic aides close to the budget discussions have told The Nation that they are pushing for an extension as well.
The Democratic Senate negotiating team for the budget talks “would absolutely be interested in whether getting a fix would be possible in this deal,” said the aide, who also noted that naturally “the big question is whether Republicans would be open to that.” Representative Paul Ryan, who is leading the Republican negotiating team in the House, did not return a request for comment.
Without a Congressional fix, 1.3 million Americans who are long-term unemployed—meaning they’ve been out of work for six months or more—will lose access to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Another 850,000 would lose access in the first quarter of 2014 (chart courtesy National Employment Law Project):
The program was created in 2008 to help support Americans who remained jobless after their state unemployment funds ran out. There were 4.1 million long-term unemployed Americans in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher than at any point in the Great Recession.
A fix would throw a crucial lifeline to those job-seekers, and also provide an economic return of $1.74 for every federal dollar spent. The program has been expanded or renewed eleven times since it was created—but almost always in crisis standoffs like the looming budget talks. With Democrats now unified from the White House through the two chambers, the prospects are certainly looking up—but the question is whether Republicans will go along, and at what cost.
George Zornick on how the next fiscal cliff could jeopordize the long-term unemployed.