400,000 Long-Term Jobless Lose Unemployment Insurance as Extended Benefits End in Eight More States

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An estimated 236,000 long-term unemployed job-seekers will be abruptly cut-off of federal Extended Benefits (EB) this weekend, swelling the ranks of those losing the last 13-to-20 weeks of unemployment insurance to more than 400,000.  On Saturday, May 12, eight states fall off the EB program, cutting off the largest number of jobless workers to be hit so far.

California, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado and Connecticut will no longer pay Extended Benefits under an arcane eligibility formula that Congress failed to fix when it reauthorized federal unemployment insurance earlier this year.  An estimated 95,300 recipients will be cut off in California alone.

Nineteen other states saw their EB programs end in the first four months of 2012.  The table below lists the states losing EB so far this year and estimated numbers of long-term unemployed job-seekers losing benefits.

Click on the image of the table below for a full size pdf version.

EB Cut-offs through May 2012

Source: National Employment Law Project

Of the 39 states, plus the Distict of Columbia, that paid Extended Benefits to eligible unemployed workers during the Great Recession and ongoing unemployment crisis, only 8 states (including DC) will remain triggered "on" the program after this weekend.  New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Idaho, DC and Alaska continue paying Extended Benefits for now -- but between June and September all but Alaska are expected to have those benefits end.

These cuts are hitting even though long-term unemployment remains near record high levels.  Nearly 5.3 million workers were unemployed for six months or longer in April, and 70 percent of those jobless workers were unemployed for a year or more.

“A growing number of long-term unemployed workers are being left behind,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.  “The final 13 to 20 weeks of jobless insurance that workers in high-unemployment states have been relying on is now being stripped away as a casualty of the legislation Congress passed in February reauthorizing the federal unemployment programs. These cuts are coming faster than the economy is improving, which means more workers will have to survive without any jobless assistance and families will have less money to put back into the economy.”

“We can’t pull the rug out from under the unemployed before the economy is fixed – and with 8.1 percent unemployment, we still have a long way to go,” Owens said.

“Especially now that these cuts are taking a toll, lawmakers need to pursue aggressive strategies to put the long-term unemployed back to work. That means effective reemployment policies; more support for education, training, job creation and job placement services; and more investments to rebuild America’s infrastructure and create a 21st century economy founded on good jobs.”

The hundreds of thousands losing Extended Benefits adds to the millions of jobless workers who have already run out of all available state and federal unemployment insurance while still looking for work.  A February GAO report put the number at about 5.5 million who exhausted benefits through 2011.

During the remainder of 2012, further reductions to federal unemployment insurance resulting from cuts enacted by Congress this year will no doubt cause more workers to exhaust benefits sooner, as the number of weeks of federal emergency extension benefits are rolled back.  Efforts by lawmakers to maintain the full federal unemployment insurance program without cuts were rejected by House leaders and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who chaired the Congressional conference committee from which the 2012 extension law emerged.

But that law extends only through the end of December of this year.  Unless federal unemployment insurance is reauthorized, or a new program is enacted, benefit extensions will end as of January 2, 2013.  Were that to occur, not only would all federal UI recipients be cut off abruptly, but those laid off workers who begin receiving regular state benefits in the latter half of the year would be limited to the maximum weeks of benefits available in their states.  Nearly all states provide up to 26 weeks of regular UI benefits.  But over the last year Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina cut the maximum weeks of benefits back to 20.  Florida and Georgia have enacted draconian cuts on sliding scales of 12-to-23 and 14-to-20 weeks respectively.  Other states have enacted changes in benefit eligibility rules and other measures that either reduce benefits or make it harder to qualify for many.

For those no longer able to receive unemployment insurance, life can quickly go from a struggle to make ends meet to a real struggle to survive.  Many long-term jobless workers who are cut off of EB or otherwise exhaust UI benefits may be able to receive SNAP (food stamps) and other assistance or services.  States frequently post links to available aid on their unemployment agency websites.  California, for example, has this helpful page of additional resources for unemployed workers.  And the U.S. Department of Labor has a central, national web portal for those whose benefits have run out and seek additional resources.

 

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