1.5 Million Jobless to Lose Unemployment $$$

Congress will debate expanding public safety net

By DANIEL MACHT
|  Sunday, Aug 2, 2009  |  Updated 5:26 AM EDT
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1.5 Million Jobless to Lose Unemployment $$$

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In good times, workers would draw down benefits for up to 26 weeks. But these are extraordinary times.

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America's unemployed are about to lose their government lifeline. Can big brother spare a dime?

As many as 1.5 million jobless could burn through their unemployment insurance by the end of the year unless Congress acts to beef up the program, the New York Times reports

Tens of thousands are already on the dole, fighting foreclosures and poverty amid a bleak job climate. The national unemployment rate hit 9.5 percent in June, with Michigan owning the dubious distinction of having 15 percent of its workers jobless, according to the Times.

“If more help is not on the way, by September a huge wave of workers will start running out of their critical extended benefits, and many will have nothing left to get by on even as work keeps getting harder to find,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director for the National Employment Law Project, which forecasted the 1.5 million jobless projection.

Back in the day, workers could expect benefits for up to 26 weeks, the Times reports.

But these are extraordinary times.

About nine million Americans rely on unemployment checks each week that average $300, according to the Times. Some of those workers have not been able to find job for more than a year.  

Last year, Congress upped the lifeline to 33 weeks, with 46 to 72 weeks for some states racked by the worst of the recession.

Washington Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott told the Times he plans to introduce a bill that would add 13 more weeks of temporary coverage to workers in states with an unemployment rate above nine percent.

The move is sure to spark debate between those who will say expanding benefits provides a perverse incentive to look for jobs, and others who will argue that the recession requires extraordinary expansion of the public safety net.     

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