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Dems Intro Bills to Extend Unemployment Insurance

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With all jobs bills dead and the supercommittee almost certain to deadlock, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone legislation to protect the hardest-hit victims of the recession — the long-term unemployed.

The bill, H.R.3346 and S.1804 would extend expanded federal unemployment benefits until through 2012. If Congress does not pass an extension, extended unemployment benefits will begin expiring on December 31, 2011, leading to more than 2 million people losing their benefits by mid-February and 6 million losing them by the end of the year. At a time when there are 4 unemployed workers competing for every 1 job opening (and that’s not factoring all of the underemployed fighting for the same jobs), letting extended benefits expire would mean that the average unemployed person would go more than 3 months with no income before finding a new job. The average duration of unemployment right now is 39.4 weeks, while unemployment benefits will last for a maximum of 26 weeks if the federal extension program is allowed to expire.

The economy at-large will suffer as well if benefits expire. Because the unemployed are generally not in a position to put away money, unemployment benefits are spent quickly, stimulating demand for goods and services and helping to create new jobs.

But it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Democrats to get an extension passed in the Republican-led House and Republican-filibustered Senate. The extension we’re currently operating under only passed because it was packaged together with an extension of the lower Bush income tax rates. The Bush tax rates don’t expire again until the end of next year, so they can’t give another extension to the Republicans yet (although they’re already talking about it). But they’re going to have to package this with something that the Republicans have been trying to push through the Senate if they actually want to pass it.

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