WASHINGTON — After this week, workers laid off through no fault of their own will not be eligible for any of the generous extended unemployment benefits layoff victims have received from the federal government since 2008.
States typically provide the first 26 weeks of unemployment insurance and Congress has provided extensions during every recession since the 1950s. But the current extensions, which give the unemployed an unprecedented 73 additional weeks of aid in some states, are set to expire at the beginning of January.
“There’s a real potential cliff coming for unemployed people,” emailed Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. “The federal unemployment programs all expire at the end of this year. This means that anyone who is laid off on July 1st or later, will ONLY receive state benefits unless Congress acts to keep these needed programs up and running.”
It’s not incredibly likely that Congress will be in the mood to keep these programs up and running. Even when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives last year, Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate caused delays every time the aid needed to be reauthorized. With Republicans in control of the House, additional federal spending to support the economy will be even less popular. (Earlier this year, the GOP pushed a bill that would allow states to redirect federal funds for jobless benefits.)
Spokesmen for Republican leaders in the House either did not comment or did not respond to requests for comment for this story.