A Potentially Awful Holiday-New Year's Gift

Gift, nothing. The only thing yule-ish about this black cloud is the date. We got through the shutdown. Barely. Now there's another deadline looming. This one's at the end of the year. By Dec. 31, 2013, if Congress does not renew the federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), more than 2 million of the long-term unemployed nationwide will have their unemployment benefits cut off.

This tasty bit of holiday cheer comes from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) which, in a recently released report detailed that 850,000  workers will run out of state unemployment insurance in the first three months of 2014, with no access to federal EUC. At least those folks get a little way into 2014 before the axe falls. 1.3 million will be cut off during the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Sing along with me..."We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas..." C'mon. Give it some feeling!

No? We don't blame you.

Per the NELP report, the economy is still far below the pre-Recession numbers. The 4.1 million long-term unemployed nationwide is still higher than at any point during the Great Recession. The average duration of unemployment  is an unsightly 36.9 weeks is more than 20 weeks longer than pre-Recession levels.

The federal cuts and sequester have reduced benefits to a large number of workers. "Since March 2012, the average number of long-term unemployed receiving EUC benefits has declined 50 percent, twice the rate of decline in the number of long-term unemployed workers," says the report. "And those workers who are collecting benefits are receiving far fewer weeks of assistance and reduced weekly checks (recently averaging less than $260 per week)."

The NELP estimates that, at the rate we're going, we won't be back at the pre-Recession unemployment rate until, wait for it, 2021.

"...and a Happy New Year!"

The federal EUC was enacted in June 2008 when national unemployment was at 5.6%. The EUC has been reauthorized, expanded or amended 11 times, most recently in January of 2013.

What do you think, readers? 12th times a charm, right?

Here's from the NELP's Executive Director Christine Owens:

“Congress cannot conscionably ignore or dismiss the economic realities facing far too many unemployed workers and their families. Unemployment levels are still unacceptably high, labor market conditions are persistently weak and long-term unemployment remains at crisis levels.  Lawmakers in Washington must renew federal unemployment insurance for 2014, and should do so without delay or brinksmanship.”

Do you agree? Let Congress know.