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Hilbert Morales  EO Publisher

Hilbert Morales
EO Publisher

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 Federal unemployment benefits expire while Congress enjoys a holiday. The House Republicans who refused to renew expiring Federal jobless benefits before leaving for an extended Christmas break have shown no inclination to revisit the issue when they return to work in January. This is unconscionable. In each of the previous seven major recessions, dating back to 1958, Congress has never let Federal benefits expire when the need has been as great as it is today. And for good reason. Prematurely ending benefits inflicts needless harm to families—the average benefits is about $270 a week—as well as avoidable damage to the economy by denting essential spending.

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The expiration of the Federal benefit program this (December 27th) weekend means that 1.3 million people (230,000 in California) who have been receiving assistance will be cut off this week. In the first half of 2014, another estimated 1.9 million people who would otherwise have qualified for federal benefits will find that there is no federal program to turn to. By the second half of 2014, that tally will rise by another 1.6 million people. (Total: 4.8 million unemployed people)

There is a common perception that renewing federal benefits means providing jobless aid indefinitely. That is not how it works. Federal benefits kick in when state benefits run out, generally after 26 weeks. The duration of federal benefits depends mainly on state jobless rates. In most states, federal benefits last for either 14 weeks, or 20 to 28 weeks.

Recently, the average duration was 29 weeks, a figure that is elevated by states with very high joblessnes. Illinois, Nevada, Rhode Island, for example, qualify for the federal maximum of up to 47 weeks.

Another misperception is that ending benefits will help to end unemployment. In that scenario, Republicans see themselves practicing tough love, jolting dependents into finding jobs. That is also not how it works. Long-term unemployment is high because there are not enough jobs, not because millions of Americans have suddenly lost their work ethic. At last count, there were nearly three unemployed people for
every job opening; in a healthy economy, the ratio is about one to one (1:1 not 3:1). At last count, the average spell of unemployment was 37.2 weeks, nealy 20 weeks longer than the prerecession level. And as demonstrated in North Carolina, which has cut state jobless benefits and effectively rejected federal benefits, slashing aid has not led to more jobs, but to despair.

Congressional Democrats and some Republicans have said they will try
to reinstate federal jobless benefits when Congress returns. If they don’t succeed, miserliness will be the prevailing public policy.

EO Publisher’s comment: Recommend that registered voters keep track of their local members of the U.S. Congress, whether Democrat, Republican or Independent—who have voted against the Federal jobless benefit program to assist those 4.8 million unemployed people. The objective is to not re-elect these members of the U.S. Congress.

And plan to vote on Primary Election Day, Tuesday, June 3, 2014 because your individual vote, when aggregated with all others, will defeat the influence of special interests (‘Big Money’) in any election. Understand that there are many more voters, such as you, who outnumber the special interests and lobbyists. When more than 50% of the registered voters do vote in their own interests, the voice of the people becomes public, is heard and is understood.

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