Unemployment Extensions Expire (Thanks, Congress)

not hiring

For a lot of us, Saturday was the end.  Adíos.  Sayonara.

Goodbye, federal unemployment extensions.

As Congress has failed to renew the four tiers of federal unemployment extensions, the enabling legislation passed last year quietly expired on Saturday.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Many of us will receive our very last unemployment benefit checks this week.  I am willing to bet a nickel that a good number of those affected have no clue.  Sure, they’ll get a little notice in their envelope.  As if anyone bothers to read those.

So, how many are being summarily cut off?  About 1.2 to 1.3 million nationally, 222,000 here in California alone.  By the end of 2014, it is estimated that nearly 5 million Americans could be affected.

I consider myself lucky.  I am still on my “initial claim,” receiving state, not federal, unemployment benefits.  But those only last for 26 weeks.  I was laid off on September 27, which means I am now halfway done.  If I do not obtain gainful employment by the end of March, I will be on my own.

I ought to add a sidebar to my résumé (not that anyone wants to see those anymore).  It should read something like this:  CONGRESSIONAL SPECIAL!  Halfway through and accepting deep salary discounts!  Call, text, email or tweet now!

In a couple of weeks, I will change the font and color for the next promotion:  MLK DAY SPECIAL!  Ten weeks left til I’m broke!  Hire now and pay me less!

A month down the road, I’ll cut and paste some little clip art silhouettes of George and Abe:  PRESIDENTS DAY SPECIAL!  Only six weeks til poverty!  Patriotic employers, hire now and improve the American economy!

As a last ditch effort, in mid-March I shall turn my entire résumé green:  ST. PAT’S SPECIAL, LAST CHANCE!  Final grains of sand in the hourglass!  Only two weeks left!  Hire me on the cheap before I’m out of luck!

Perhaps it won’t come to this.  There are currently six bills in Congress (three each in the House and the Senate) that would provide out-of-work Americans with various types of benefit extensions.  There is a possibility that one or more of these may be voted on and approved after Congress returns from its New Year’s break on January 6.  Personally, I think our elected representatives are lily-livered, insensitive, gutless wonders to allow federal unemployment extensions to run out and then head off on vacation.

The Democrats are blaming the Republicans (what else is new?), but not everyone on the Democratic side of the aisle wants to spend the $26 billion needed to renew unemployment benefit extensions either.

President Obama, who has taken so much flak for the Affordable Care Act, unsuccessfully urged Congress to extend benefits rather than allowing them to expire.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urges the restoration of unemployment benefits to be Congress’ first priority upon legislators’ return to the Capitol.

One thing that seems fairly certain is that if any extensions are approved, they will not be retroactive.  So let the suffering begin and, hmm, happy new year?

It is no secret how being cut off from unemployment benefits will affect the 1.2 million.  Many have no savings and will effectively have no source of income whatsoever.  They will be unable to pay their bills, right down to food, rent and heat (um, it is wintertime, folks).  There will be an increase in evictions, with homeless families crowding the shelters or sleeping out of doors in the cold.  Food banks, churches and emergency assistance services will be taxed even more than they already are.

And we can expect an increase in crime.  Who is going to blame a parent for taking whatever measures are necessary to feed his or her children?  Panhandling?  Check.  Shoplifting?  Check.  Petty theft?  Check.  Breaking and entering?  Check.  Better put out the “Welcome, Unemployed” signs at the entrance of the county jails.  Police departments and hospitals had better add overtime shifts to their schedules.  Why hospitals?  Can you say “substance abuse?”  How about “depression?”  How about “domestic violence?”  Try this one:  “Hypothermia.”  It’s a very big word, but I bet you can say it, children!  Even you with the frostbitten fingers and toes.

Congress, however, has no problem with its extremities; it is its heart that has been frozen.  From what I’ve been reading, it appears that our elected representatives feel no sense of urgency in this matter, as employment has been increasing nationally.  In November, unemployment decreased from October in 45 states, falling 7% nationally.  Here in the West, however, we continue to deal with the highest regional unemployment rate in the nation.  Ironically, California was the exception, with the greatest drop in unemployment in the whole country.

The worst increase in unemployment was in Ohio, where 12,000 joined the ranks of the jobless last month.

But you know what they say about statistics — it’s a primer in how to lie with numbers.

For one thing, I have to wonder how many of the lucky people who found jobs in November were signing on for seasonal work?  You know, employers beefing up the staffs of discount and department stores for the holidays, hiring bodies to load and unload trucks in warehouses, bringing on bell ringers and sign wavers?

I think about my nephew, who was one of those warehouse workers until he was laid off a few days ago.  Christmas is over, don’t you know.

And what do the unemployment numbers really tell us?  How many people are on the unemployment rolls — in other words, how many have open claims and are still receiving unemployment checks.  What about the hundreds of thousands who have already run through all available federal extensions?  Federal and state agencies refer to those who have been out of work for more than six months as “the long-term unemployed.”  But what about those who were laid off back in 2012 or earlier? Many of them are still out of work, but are not counted in unemployment numbers because they are no longer eligible to draw benefits.  These are the unseen unemployed, the invisible ones.  It is no surprise that many who fall into this category have become discouraged, depressed and have given up looking for work altogether.

But, hey, look on the bright side.  Eliminating these slackers from our unemployment figures makes the American economy look ripe for investment in the eyes of world markets.  And the news is about to get even better.  As of last Saturday, we have 1.2 million fewer on the unemployment rolls!  Imagine that!

I think the solution to all our unemployment problems is totally obvious.  Simply cancel all unemployment benefits of every kind, both state and federal.  Then our unemployment rate throughout the nation will be . . . (drum roll, please) zero!

Who says full employment is just a pipe dream?

 

References

Fox, Emily Jane, “Unemployment Benefits for 1.3 Million Expire,” CNN Money, December 29, 2013. http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/27/news/economy/unemployment-benefits-expire/

Lauter, David, “Q & A:  Why Unemployment Benefits Expire for 1.3 Million,” Politics Now, Los Angeles Times (December 27, 2013).  http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-q-and-a-unemployment-benefits-20131227,0,1111524.story#axzz2p1oXeJcn

Lowrey, Annie, “Benefits Ending for One Million Unemployed,” New York Times (December 27, 2013).  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/28/us/benefits-ending-for-one-million-of-unemployed.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Plumer, Brad, “Unemployment for 1.3 Million Expire Saturday.  Here’s Why,” Wonkblog, Washington Post (December 23, 2013).  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/12/20/unemployment-benefits-for-1-3-million-workers-expire-next-week-heres-what-you-should-know/

 

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10 thoughts on “Unemployment Extensions Expire (Thanks, Congress)

  1. I don’t understand! Don’t folks on unemployment receive TWO years of benefits?? Why isn’t that enough time to find work? I think that is VERY generous, and even a year seems more than adequate, what am I missing?

    • In most states (such as here in California), those who are laid off due to no fault of their own are entitled to 26 weeks (6 months) of employment. That’s all. After that, we are at the mercy of federal extensions approved by Congress. At one point, a couple of years ago, it was possible to be eligible for four federal extensions after state unemployment ran out, for a total of 99 weeks (almost 2 years). This has since been reduced. As of now, federal extensions are at zero. Unless Congress approves a bill to restore these benefits, anyone who has received 3 months or more of unemployment benefits will be cut off.

      I understand what you say about a year being generous, but six months is (sadly) not enough time for most people to find work in the current economy. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • I live in WA state and here you get 6 months from WA state and whatever the feds are giving out by way of extensions, which several years ago were plenty but there are no extensions right now, so 6 months it is. I lost my job in June, 2012 and despite applying for over 200 jobs, I haven’t gotten a single callback. The job I was laid off from is nonexistent in my area so I’m trying to get back into what I was doing prior to that, but because my previous experience was “so long ago” no one is even looking at my resume. So yeah, if your job is in demand and that industry is hiring, you could get a job in probably a year or less. I’ve all but given up at this point living out of a savings account and about to cash in all my old 401k just to eat and pay rent. This is the 2nd time I’ve been laid off in 15 years; the last time it took me over 2 years to find a job. And no, I was not receiving an unemployment check for 2 years, just like I’m not receiving one now. I hope you never find yourself in this situation because it does start to feel hopeless after a while. And no, I can’t get a job flipping burgers or working retail or anything else paying minimum wage, even though I’d gladly work one of those jobs right now, because none of those places will hire me period. I’m overqualified and they know the minute I can get a better paying job, I’ll be outta there so they don’t want to waste the time and money going through the hiring process. I’m so sick of hearing people say “just get a job flipping burgers!” Not that you did. I’m just saying.

      • Thanks for making things clearer Debbie, the media is remiss in ”telling it like it is” Many people I know are under the same impression that everyone gets a year or two of benefits.
        But one thing I’ve seen happen, is that someone is getting benefits and they know they have a year or two, so rather than taking a lower paying job, they’ll wait as long as possible to take advantage of the higher pay. I think Mr. Guacamole’s wife said the same thing to him, in one of his posts, RE: why don’t you just stay on unemployment so you don’t lose the income that you already have coming in. I can’t find the blog where that was said, now, so maybe I just imagined that conversation… sorry if I’m wrong!. Good luck Debbie, I hope you find a job soon!

      • Thanks, Belle. As for taking a lower paying job instead of staying on unemployment, in my state there isn’t anything lower paying than the unemployment check that I receive. Minimum wage in WA state is $9.19/hour. I was making $21.47/hour w/401k, pension, medical, short- and long-term disability, life insurance, and 2 months of vacation time/holiday pay, etc. So yeah, going from $21.47/hour with all those benefits to $9.19/hour likely with no or few benefits is a real hardship and no one really wants to do that. However, $9.19 x 40 hours = $367.60/week. I would gladly have taken a lower paying job than the one I was accustomed to because ANY job would pay more than my unemployment check which, presequester and pretax was $343/week; postsequester/pretax $270/week. PRETAX. This also includes: No 401k, no pension, no medical, no short- or long-term disability, no life insurance, no vacation time/holiday pay. The year end bonus is you have to pay your own taxes, mind you, at a time when you have no income other than the unemployment check, if you are still collecting it, which most are not because it’s finite and won’t last till tax time.

        Maybe it’s different for other people because they were making a lot more than I was making prior to being unemployed, but for me, a minimum wage job would have paid more than I was making on unemployment.

        My husband also had the “pleasure” of getting laid off and being on unemployment right before I lost my job. In fact, there were 3 weeks that overlapped where I knew I was losing my job and he still had no job or offer on the table. Luckily, he lucked out and got a job within 4 months of being laid off. His unemployment checks were larger than mine, because he was making more than I was before he was laid off. He took a lower paying job than he was making prior to unemployment. It also happened to be more than the unemployment check and have benefits, thank goodness.

        Back in 2001 I was laid off and my unemployment checks were much bigger then. I made more then too so that’s part of it. Congress extended unemployment a few times back then and I got unemployment for 14 months. I was out of work 2 years before I got a job. Back then I’d had a few interviews, only 1 offer, and it was a lower paying job than I had before the layoff.. I took the job, then I got ill from the chemicals the company manufactured, and had to quit the job after 3 months. I was out of work again with no income for another I think 6 months when I got a job, again, lower paying than the last 2. It’s unreal but you do what you gotta do. At least I do. I don’t know where all the misinformation comes from regarding unemployment because every single person I know that’s been on it wished they weren’t while simultaneously being very thankful for it, as I have been.

  2. Hi, Debbie, and thanks so much for your comment. You make some important points.

    Technological obsolescence is likely to continue to be a big problem into the foreseeable future. I have worked long-term in two very different fields, both of which have become technologically obsolete in this country.

    You may be interested in the works of economist Thomas Friedman, who urges that those whose skills have been rendered technologically obsolete either be retrained or receive lifetime support from the government. I agree.

    You fall into the category that I referred to as “invisible” in that the long-term unemployed fall off the grid and are not counted in the unemployment numbers. And I agree with you about being underqualified or overqualified for everything. I wish both of us much luck in getting back on our feet very soon.

    • Thanks, Uncle Guacamole. I will have to look into his work; I like how he thinks and agree with that line of thinking. I also had 2 very different careers. One is still very much needed but since it’s been a while since I did it, I’m considered irrelevant since there are 1000 other applicants with more recent experience applying for the same position. My resume gets tossed. I have been on the other side of the desk and tossed those resumes so I know that and try not to take it personally. I thought about going back to school after this most recent layoff. That’s what I did the first layoff. Then I got laid off from that career. And that career is outsourced so cheaply that I will be working for less than minimum wage if I were to get one of the US-based jobs. Therefore, I would rather work flipping burgers because it pays more and uses less of my brain. And you know the rest of the story. I started having doubts if I can even pick a career where I can keep a job long term. Lately, I am having better luck winning sweepstakes prizes so have been applying for jobs then hitting up the sweeps sites after sending resumes. It’s actually been good for my morale to hear “Congratulations! You won!”

      There’s a blogger I follow that you may be interested in also. He’s been discussing lately about taxing companies on robotics/technology where the technology replaces the worker. Where is the incentive to keep humans around when computer and robotics can do all the work? We are starting to see this more and more at grocery stores with U-scans and what, now drones are going to deliver some of our packages?! Don’t ask what’s next, we probably don’t want to know the answer to that. My last career was in healthcare and they are using more and more robotics. You can right now have surgery without a surgeon in the same room. Maybe someday we won’t even need surgeons at all! Scary thought. Check out peoplenomics.com (subscription site). He also posts a lot of the same info on his free site urbansurvival.com as a kind of crossover/sister site. Fair warning: Typos abound. It’s entertaining though! Best of luck to you as well!

      • Thanks so much for the reference, Debbie. I did take a look at urbansurival.com, where I found some of the articles eye-opening. I like your idea about entering sweepstakes! I know one person in Colorado who makes a career of this and has won more prizes than I ever thought was humanly possible. Happy new year!

  3. Pingback: Federal Unemployment Extensions: The Doomsday Prepper Model | A Map of California

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