Unemployment Benefits Expire for 1.3 Million Americans

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Credit: John McAfee/CNN

(CNN) — Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans expired Saturday after Congress failed to pass an extension. Reinstating those benefits is expected to be one of the first priorities for congressional Democrats in the new year.

“Extending unemployment insurance is the right thing to do for millions of Americans who are trying to support their families,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Saturday. “What makes matters worse, the loss of benefits comes just a few days after the holidays.”

Like most Democrats, Wasserman Schultz laid the blame for the expiring benefits squarely at the feet of congressional Republicans.

Many Republicans have in turn argued that the federal benefits – passed during the Great Recession – are a disincentive for job hunting and are no longer necessary as the economy improves and unemployment ticks down.

Unemployment isn’t going down fast enough, say Democrats. They argue that without the benefits, recipients will severely curtail their spending and be a drag on the economy.

“As we continue our work to create more good paying jobs, it is essential that we extend unemployment benefits to the millions of American families who still need and rely on them,” Wasserman Schultz said.

President Barack Obama also weighed in Friday, according to the White House. In a phone call to Sens. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Dean Heller, R-Nevada, Obama voiced his own support for reinstating unemployment benefits, the goal of a bill co-sponsored by the two men. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to take the benefits up as soon as the chamber returns from its break early next month.

Heller has been one of the few Republicans to vocally support extending the benefits – although House Speaker John Boehner has expressed some willingness to negotiate on the matter.

In a statement announcing his extension bill, Heller argued that “providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government.”

“As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs,” Heller said.

A number of Democrats also took to Twitter on Saturday to argue for extending the benefits.

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11 comments

    • sharon

      VERY BAD IDEA to continue with this. During my unemployment I could’ve hadjobs that payed less than my unemployment, but was feeling entitled to my benefits, because I had worked for such a very long time.

  • Tracie Schneider

    I have been unemployed for 11 months! Im a middleaged female that has done ALL I can do to gain employment to NO AVAIL!! I WANT TO WORK! Yes! cutting uneployment benefits will( according to statistics) lower those “ON” unemployment, but they WILL STILL BE UNEMPLOYED!!! Who then takes care of them!?

    I will be MORE dependant on the government(thru food stamp, General Relief, & Ill even get medical!) And have to depend on my children for help!

  • Brandi Kinney

    I lost my job December 11, 2013, and I have yet to find another one. I have a 2 year old daughter to care for. I have been trying for 2 weeks to start my unemployment benefits and I have not been able to get through due to the high call volume and extremely long wait times(over 6 hours). I am almost out of what money I have left from my last paycheck and I have no idea how I will be able to continue to support my household when the money runs out. There is absolutely no reason there should have been no extension given. The republicans are taking the only means of support people myself have until we find jobs. I’m sure they would rather not have millions of more people end up on government funded money for support. I was at the same job for 6 years. I earned my unemployment benefits.

    • Darrell Hylton

      if Demacrats did try to fix it like everything else they try to pass to help the American people your cronies in the republicant party will either try to filibuster or vote no on it

  • sharon

    I think it’s about time for this. There are jobs out there that do pay as much as unemployment does. It makes people dependent on the government more, and that is a very BAD thing.

  • matt

    Some people are “locked out” of their jobs due to a labor dispute and the state says the company is at fault…so how is it fair those workers are being penalized for the companies greed?

  • Darrell Hylton

    gotta love republicants they have no problem cutting peoples unemployment benefit claim people will become dependent on Gov, money while at the same time passing bills to give out trillions in corporate welfare in farm & oil subsidies

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