With the November 30 expiration of the federally-funded ‘Emergency Unemployment Compensation’ [EUC] program only a few weeks away, the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in Congress to reauthorize the program has become a real point of contention on Capitol Hill and on mainstreet.
While the Republicans have continued to demonstrate ‘fiscal responsibility’ by insisting that any EUC extension must be paid for or be offset with other spending cuts, the Democrats argue that unemployment benefits constitute an ’emergency’ expenditure and do not fall under ‘Paygo’ rules. Historically, unemployment benefits have been considered to be ’emergency expenses’ (and therefore paid with deficit spending), inlcuding those passed earlier this year.
Yesterday, the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment [CDLE] provided the following information from the Unemployment Insurance Program [UIP].
The number of claimants currently receiving their initial 26 weeks of regular benefits: 65,333
The number of claimants currently receiving Tier I benefits: 31,386
The number of claimants currently receiving Tier II benefits: 13,890
The number of claimants currently receiving Tier III benefits: 17,961
The number of claimants currently receiving SEB1 benefits: 5,858
The number of claimants currently receiving SEB2 benefits: 15,188
The number of claimants who have exhausted their EUC benefits: 26,299 have exhausted their benefits
(note: each figure represents the number of claimants that have claimed a recent week of benefit payments)
As the data indicates, there are currently more than 26,000 long-term unemployed workers (99ers) in Colorado who have already exhausted all U.I. benefits. Across the country, the are an estimated 4 million 99ers who began exhausting all benefits, some as long as 8 months ago. The July extension – which took more than 50 days for Congress to pass – did not inlcude any additional assistance for the 99ers, despite continued efforts to obtain work, most remain unemployed and have had no source of income since that time. This is evidenced by the increasing number of long-term unemployed workers who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks and the number of discouraged workers included in the the U-6 measure of unemployment as reported by the DOL on a quarterly basis. In September, U-6 was 17% for the U.S. and nearly 15% in Colorado.
Let me make the point that the data shows that there are a huge number of new claimants (65,000 currently collecting regular benefits). Contrary to what many on the right have claimed, the data suggests that the long-term unemployed are not lazy, preferring to collect an unemployment check rather than find a job, but that the job market remains weak and a significant number of workers have recently filed UI claims. If the long-term unemployed were ‘lazy’ and not looking for work, wouldn’t one would expect to see the higher number of claimants fall within one of the EUC Tiers and/or SEB benefits categories…?
As Bill Thoennes, spokesperson for the CLDE states,
“That data indicates that if Congress takes no action, there are at least 150,000 Coloradans who are currently in line to exhaust their regular state claim or their EUC claim Most of those claimants will reach the end of their claim by March of 2011.”
On that note, it is worth noting again, that Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), recently stated that he is in favor of extending benefits, but is interested in making sure they are paid for. In the same conversation, he also stated that he would support a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for everyone – including the wealthy – without finding a way to pay for it. I would ask the Senator again, “Who’s side are you on?” Please let the Senator and all members of Congress know your thoughts: 1-888-245-0215.
Also reported earlier: on Thursday, the House introduced HR6419, a bill to extend the current EUC program only (and not provide additional benefits to those who have already exhausted all EUC benefits). The bill failed after being brought to the floor under ‘suspension of the rules’, an expedited process that requires a 2/3 majority to pass; the final vote was 258-154.
Ironically, Betsy Markey (D-CO4), who voted against U.I. extensions not just once but four times earlier this year, decided to vote in favor of extending unemployment compensation. One can’t help but wonder if her ‘change of heart’ (a/k/a reversal in policy position) was the result of her and her staff being sent to the unemployment lines by Colorado voters in the November mid-terms.
It seems that such a ‘change of heart’ is also just as easily defined as the ‘epitomy of hypocrisy’ – just as the Republicans who are claiming to be concerned about the deficit also want to make unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy permanent – by adding the $70b/per year to the deficit.
The so-called Blue-dog Democrat, along with Michael Bennet, has taken a position that is exactly in line with that of hypocrit Republicans such as Mitch McConnell & Co – the hypocrits who claim to be concerned about the deficit only when it comes to help for the middle class – but have no problem added $700b to the deficit by pushing for unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy and by funding 10 years and two unpoular wars – without paying for them. Democrats and Republicans alike are quite capable of being the poster child that represents the ‘epitomy of hypocrisy’. This writer, registered as an unaffiliated voter, is becoming more and more inclined to support candidates from a third party in future elections.
**The EUC program provides up to 73 weeks of benefits in addition to the 26 weeks of ‘regular benefits’. Depending on laws in a particular state, as well as the state’s unemployment rate, claimants can receive a maximum of 99 weeks of benefits (hence the term ’99ers’). The maximum in CO is 93 as the State has not qualified for 6 weeks of ‘Tier 4’ EUC benefits.