2 Million Long-term Unemployed Now Without Jobless Aid

More than 1 Million Children Harmed by Cutoff

The number of long-term unemployed Americans without access to jobless aid hit the two million mark this week as a result of Congress’ failure to reauthorize the emergency unemployment insurance program. An additional one million children in affected families have been harmed by the cutoff.

New data released by the National Employment Law Project (see Tables 1 and 2) shows that the number of unemployed workers losing jobless aid continues to climb. An estimated 72,000 unemployed workers exhaust their state unemployment insurance each week. With federal EUC cut off at the end of 2013, they have no funds to support them during their job searches. Unless federal benefits are restored, by April 5th the number of unemployed workers without jobless aid will reach 2.3 million, affecting 1.2 million children.

Families dealing with extended job loss have been found to experience significant increases in poverty during that period. Other research has drawn links between a parent’s job loss and a child’s performance at school.
“I had just transferred over to the EUC benefits one week prior to it being cut off,” Sarah Brown, 32, from Lake County, Illinois, wrote to the National Employment Law Project in February. “I have a 9- year old son to take care of and no other income. I am in danger of having my lights cut off, and while I do receive food stamps it is not enough to cover the whole month when you have a growing child at home. I often go without, just to make sure my son is getting what he needs. It is hard to explain to a child that mommy can survive on some crackers and water.”
Senate Democrats are crafting a 6-month renewal of the EUC program, which could see a vote as early as next week. Efforts to renew EUC have thus far been thwarted by Republican filibusters in the Senate and obstruction by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. In February, a 3- month reauthorization was one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Four Republican Senators – Dean Heller (NV), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Kelly Ayotte (NH)– joined Senate Democrats and Independents seeking to advance that bill to a simple majority vote. Senators Mark Kirk (IL), Rob Portman (OH) and Dan Coats (IN) all voted to block the bill, despite previously indicating support for a renewal.
State-by-state data compiled by NELP shows that nearly 60,000 Ohioans will have lost unemployment benefits by March 15, impacting more than 30,000 children. If EUC benefits are not restored, those numbers will rise to more than 65,000 Ohio adults and more than 33,000 children by April 5.

The effects of the loss of federal jobless aid in Sen. Kirk’s Illinois are even more severe. By March 15, nearly 120,000 Illinoisans will lose unemployment insurance, affecting more than 61,000 children, with the numbers rising to nearly 130,000 adults cut off jobless aid and 67,000 children impacted by April 5. At 8.9 percent, Illinois has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation and the third highest percentage of children with a long-term unemployed parent (4.9 percent in 2013).

“I have done nothing but been an upstanding, contributing citizen of a country that has now said me and my 5-year-old don’t matter and my contributions don’t matter,” said Dawn Colar, 38, from Chicago, in a note to the National Employment Law Project. “EUC was helping me maintain my household. I have to pay lights and gas and water and feed and clothe my 5 year old. I am now behind on both my heating and light bills and am worried about being disconnected. I am struggling to pay my car note and fear losing my house if something does not give soon.”

Ms. Colar, who lost her benefits Dec. 28, served 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, is close to completing a Master’s degree, and had been working since the age of 16 until her most recent job was eliminated due to budget cuts triggered by federal sequestration.

President Obama’s budget calls for an extension of the federal EUC program to provide this critical relief to millions of long-term unemployed job seekers who Congress has left out.

“It is unconscionable that any Senator, regardless of party, would willfully deny struggling constituents the modest aid they need to sustain themselves and their children while they continue to search for work,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “It must be especially perplexing and disconcerting to families of long-term unemployed workers in Illinois that Senator Mark Kirk continues to block renewal of federal jobless aid, despite his public avowals of commitment to continuing this vital assistance. We hope Senator Kirk or one of his colleagues will heed the cries for help from their constituents and supply the needed 60th vote to allow the Senate to send a renewal of federal unemployment insurance over to the House for approval. With each week, the dual crisis of long-term job loss and the loss of income support grows deeper and wider. Before even more damage is done to workers and their families, Congress must put America’s families first, and restore federal EUC assistance.”

Latest data tables on the impacts of the expiration of federal unemployment insurance:

Emma Stieglitz
(646) 200-5307

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