San José, CA - On July 8, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that almost 350,000 unemployed were dropped from federal unemployment insurance rolls. This is the second week in a row that the number of Americans collecting Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) has dropped by more than 300,000. Funding for these programs has run out, and Republicans in the Senate have blocked a vote to provide moneys for federal unemployment insurance benefits. As a result, jobless workers are getting cut off of their federal unemployment insurance benefits by the hundreds of thousands each week.
Even worse, when adjusted for seasonal changes in job patterns, the Department of Labor also reported that there was a drop of more than 200,000 in state unemployment benefit rolls in the latest week. State unemployment benefits typically last for six months, after which the unemployed can apply for federal benefits. But because of the lack of action by the Senate, the federal programs are not accepting any new claims. With the average unemployed worker out of a job for six months or more, hundreds of thousands are losing their state unemployment benefits each week, in addition to those losing federal benefits.
While the average unemployment insurance benefit is only $300 a week (or about $15,000 per year), it can make a difference between having a roof over one’s head and being able to feed your family or not. This is a far cry from the lives of the Senators who have refused to help. According to their own financial disclosure forms from 2009, most Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, are millionaires. Some Senators have argued that $300 a week is a ‘disincentive’ to taking a job. But with five jobless workers looking for work for each job opening, there are just not enough jobs to go around.
While the Senate was taking a week off, protests against the benefit cutoffs are growing. On July 7 union activists gathered at the office of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, in Louisville, Kentucky to protest the Republican opposition to extending funding for federal unemployment insurance benefits. The Senators will begin to meet again on July 12. But with only four weeks of work until their August break, pressure on the Senate to fund the sederal EUC and EB programs will have to escalate.