Will Congress Extend Unemployment?

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extend-unemploymentThere was an outcry over the fact that Congress once again held up passing a vote to extend unemployment benefits for an estimated 2 million jobless Americans.

According to new unemployment statistics that came out last Friday, there is an increase in the unemployment rate (to 9.5%) with 125,000 jobs lost. A bill to extend unemployment benefits to unemployed workers has stood stalled in Congress for a month as the GOP has so far blocked any attempts to extend unemployment benefits, even as unemployment rates still rise and there is no current major increase in hiring. The Republican move, stemming from a stance to stop government spending, has effectively cut off unemployment benefits for millions of unemployed workers who need those small stipends to cover their living expenses while looking for work.

After a refusal on the Democrat's side to move previously earmarked stimulus funds over to cover the unemployment extension, the bill was once again stalled last week - right before Congress took their vacation for the July Fourth holiday.

On top of the question of where the money to extend unemployment will come from, there's also a notion being thrown around that unemployed workers collecting unemployment are spending less time looking for a job, and instead treating their unemployment period as an extended vacation. "There is an economic argument that the longer you extend unemployment benefits, the longer people are unemployed. And after a while it adds to the problem rather than solves the problem," said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. And Senator Jon Kyl created a frenzy over his Senate floor speech last week stating that extending unemployment "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work." However, with the majority of unemployed Americans receiving only $293 per week, that seems laughable.

The bill to extend unemployment could not come at a more important time, as Maurice Emsellem, a National Employment Law policy co-director told CNN last week, "There's only one job available for every five unemployed workers." Even economist Paul Krugman stated that we may be headed straight for a third depression, the fault of which he believes will be shouldered on a government unwilling to take action. "And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world...governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending."

Congress will reassemble next week to make a final decision on whether or not to extend unemployment benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 99 weeks for the millions of workers desperate to find jobs.

Next:Are You a 99er? Unemployment Benefits Are Over, What to Do? >>

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