WASHINGTON — Despite bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate for reinstating emergency aid for the long-term unemployed, prospects remain dim in the Republican-controlled House. Meanwhile, the toll of the expired extended benefits on states is mounting.
As of Saturday, $5 billion of aid has been lost, including at least $100 million for 13 states, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for safety net programs. More than 1 million workers have exhausted their regular benefits and have not had access to long-term aid since the expiration took effect.
The extended benefits, which began under President George W. Bush in 2008, allowed unemployed workers to collect aid for up to 99 weeks, instead of the normal 26 weeks. But the program expired on Dec. 28 and Congress is divided on whether to renew it.
Now that the economy is improving, many conservatives argue the extended benefits are no longer needed, and might be a disincentive for the jobless to find work. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., spoke for many conservatives when he recently warned against “turning a temporary federal benefit into another welfare program.”
But supporters note that many states continue to have record-high numbers of people who have been unemployed for six months or longer. Nationally, about 3.8 million people, or a third of all jobless Americans, have been out of work for that long.