For Immediate Release: November 06, 2009

Bill to Extend Unemployment Comes as Unemployment Reaches Double Digits

Economic Recovery Long Way off for Low-Income and Unemployed Americans

(Washington, D.C.) President Obama today signed a bill that extends unemployment insurance for millions of workers who are on the verge of exhausting their benefits. The bill signing comes amid other news that the economy is showing signs of recovery, though unemployment at 10.2 percent is at its highest level in 26 years.

The bill adds 14 more weeks of unemployment benefits for workers in all states, and 20 weeks for workers in states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent.

Since Sept. 1, about 600,000 workers have run out of benefits. These unemployed workers are eligible for the extension, though it will not retroactively cover time that has elapsed since their benefits initially expired. The bill also provides relief to workers whose benefits are close to expiring.

The measure, which is projected to cost $2.8 billion, would be paid for through a two-year extension of the unemployment insurance surtax on employers. The surtax has existed for 30 years.

Economic Recovery?

The bill signing came hours after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a monthly report showing that the unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent in October--the highest rate since 1983--and a week after the Department of Commerce released a report showing the economy grew 3.5 percent during the last quarter.

"Despite signs of economic recovery, continuously rising unemployment shows that the worst of the recession is not over for millions of Americans," said Evelyn Ganzglass, director of Workforce Development at CLASP. "The unemployment extension is welcome and needed. But lawmakers also should also consider other policy solutions that will ensure more Americans can get back to work and share in the benefits of economic recovery."

Some of the nation's economic growth can be attributed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year. The pace of job losses has slowed greatly since its implementation. Congress included in the Recovery Act a number of provisions that directly assisted low-income families and that have been highly effective in both directly alleviating suffering and stimulating the economy.

"While the recovery act has helped millions, many will require a safety net even after recovery act dollars and unemployment insurance extensions are exhausted," Ganzglass said. 

Policy Solutions

Congress should address the need for jobs directly by providing subsidized jobs for the long-term unemployed, additional funding for summer jobs for youth, try-out jobs and internships for workers completing training programs, and transitional jobs for more disadvantaged workers. 

In addition, Congress should extend Recovery Act funding for critical safety net programs, including Medicaid, child care, and the TANF Emergency Fund.  States will be working on their 2010-2011 budgets soon, and without continued funding, these programs will face severe cuts.


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