News Column

Long-term Unemployed Dangle Over Fiscal Cliff

Dec. 27, 2012

Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star

long-term unemployment

About 2.1 million Americans who have been getting unemployment benefits are likely to be among the first to fall off the fiscal cliff.

All federal extended jobless benefits expire this week.

"The 11th hour has arrived" for the long-term unemployed, said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, which is advocating an extension of benefits.

About 33,000 workers in Missouri are running out of benefits. In Kansas, about 14,000 extended recipients will lose benefits..

"Other consequences of going over the fiscal cliff won't be felt for some time, but losing Emergency Unemployment Compensation will deliver an immediate and severe blow to people who are already down," Owens said.

Congress had authorized a series of federal extended benefit weeks because of the length and depth of the recession. At one point, some unemployed workers were eligible for up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits.

Gradually, the emergency and extended benefit programs have been phased out. Pending some kind of reinstatement, that leaves only regular state benefits available for qualified unemployed workers.

In Kansas, state benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. In Missouri, the state grants up to 20 weeks of benefits.

If Congress doesn't restore a federal benefits extension, it is estimated that an additional 1 million unemployed job hunters will exhaust their state benefits in the first quarter of 2013 without access to further benefits.

About four in 10 unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, which is the official definition of long-term unemployment.

Because of eligibility rules to collect benefits, only about one in four unemployed people receive any jobless benefits.

Source: (c)2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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