Congress: Put emergency unemployment compensation in the continuing resolution

The emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits that millions of Americans are receiving to help them survive a period of long-term joblessness will terminate on Dec. 31 under current law. If the modest but steady income EUC provides—averaging about $300 per week—is cut off, then families, communities, and businesses across the country will suffer. Jobless workers will struggle to pay their rent and utilities and will reduce spending on discretionary purchases of food, clothing, recreation, and entertainment. Businesses, in response, will hire fewer employees. If EUC is not extended through the end of 2013, the effects on the economy will be serious: Economic activity will be about $56 billion lower than it otherwise would have been1and about 430,000 jobs will be lost—at a time when every job is precious.

So far, I have  heard nothing to indicate that policymakers in Washington are addressing this matter, even though Democratic and Republican leaders are about to close a deal on keeping the government running for the next six months. It would be disastrous for Congress and the president to let EUC expire. Continuing EUC has to be part of the continuing appropriations legislation that congressional leaders are negotiating right now, which will fund existing programs all across the government through March 2013 at current levels. EUC ought to be extended for another year or until the unemployment rate falls below 6 percent, but Congress must, at very least, act now to ensure that—like the rest of government—EUC is funded through the end of March.

This is a matter that cannot wait and cannot be left to lame duck negotiations over  a budget deal. Whenever Congress has put off voting on the continuation of EUC in the past few years it has let benefits lapse, sometimes for months. Businesses and workers around the country need to know that Congress will address this issue soon and will address it positively. The economic well-being of millions of families depends on Congress taking action at the earliest opportunity.

Many conservatives have been calling for an end to extended unemployment benefits, and some members of Congress would have terminated them long ago or even blocked their creation if they could. But no Congress has ended emergency benefits in past recessions when unemployment was above 7.2 percent, and the consensus of economists is that unemployment will remain near or above 8 percent for all of 2013. Any call to end EUC now is premature and destructive.

Endnotes

1. Including both the $35 billion that would be spent on EUC under current law next year and the roughly $21 billion boost to economic activity this spending would provide to the economy through multiplier effects.


  • Dody

    Hi, Ross – I ran across your blog here looking for information on any
    proposed extension of the EUC into 2013. I am appalled to find nothing
    addressing the EUC that isn’t less than a year old. I have heard no
    one even discuss the issue, as you say. I am out of work for the second
    time in four years now. The first time, I was unemployed for 11
    months. This time I’m right at 10. Without the EUC, I might never have
    found that job that kept me employed for 2.5 years. I would certainly
    have lost my home, and I would have become a burden on our already
    overburdened safety net as I would have needed all manner of support to
    survive. The EUC is the only thing keeping the roof over my head right
    now. If the EUC is allowed to expire at the end of December 2012, I
    will be facing homelessness again. Is there anyone you can tap on the
    shoulder and ask them what is happening?? I can’t believe no one is
    talking about this. The BLS said in their October 2012 Employment
    Situation Summary that 40.6 of the 12.3 million unemployed in the U.S.
    have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. That is an enormous number
    of people who will go over the cliff along with everything else if
    nothing is done. Additionally, although we are starting to see
    improvement, the unemployment rate is still quite high, and as you know,
    the rate stated above does not include those folks who have simply
    stopped looking for work and are now living in mom and dad’s garage.
    Please let me know if you have found out anything since you wrote this.
    Thanks for being the lone voice in the wilderness! It’s appreciated!!

    Dody – Arden, NC

  • http://www.facebook.com/vchieco1 V Anthony Chieco

    IF WE cant afford to support other countries and we really cant than
    we should stop ! Extend EU and do it first and foremost!! Keep our
    american citizens afloat above all! What’s wrong with congress these are
    our brothers sisters cousins out of work!! WTF??