Time Is Running Out for Unemployed Workers

Apr 12, 2010

By Neil Ridley

Thousands of unemployed workers have begun to lose access to federally funded unemployment assistance because Congress did not pass an unemployment benefit extension before its spring recess.

As of March 2009, 6.5 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months--44 percent of all jobless individuals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thanks to federally funded unemployment benefits and assistance with health insurance premiums, these workers have been receiving the additional help they need to try to make ends meet as they struggle to find employment.

However, a temporary extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies expired on April 5. The Senate was scheduled to vote on another extension on March 26, but it did not take place before the spring congressional recess. The Senate is expected to vote on a short-term extension this week. 

The nation is dealing with the highest levels of unemployment in more than two decades. For low-income, low-skill workers who face higher levels of joblessness and are less likely to have savings to rely on, unemployment insurance is a particularly important lifeline. Failing to extend unemployment insurance benefits this week is expected to disrupt the lives of 212,000 people and their families, according to the National Employment Law Project. By the end of the month, that number will grow to nearly a million if Congress does not act.

Workers are waiting. After Congress acts on a short-term extension, a top priority should be to extend UI and COBRA benefits until the end of the year.

Read CLASP's recommendations on job creation strategies for low-income people.

Read about the TANF Emergency Fund, a program that provides cash assistance to needy families and subsidies to create jobs.

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