Unemployment benefits have ended for millions of Americans, leaving many wondering what they are expected to do to survive. 1.3 million Americas are affected by the lapse of Federal benefits coming into effect today and the number is expected to climb beyond 4 million in the coming months. Despite promises from President Obama saying those who liked their coverage would be able to keep it, the program is being shut down entirely with only a small chance of a three-month extension on the horizon. Despite the millions who depend on the average $1,166 monthly stipend, the program has been under attack from GOP representatives nearly since its inception for its $26 billion annual cost.
Signed into law in 2008 by former President George Bush at the height of the recession, the program was intended to be temporary from the start. However, five years later it has received more than eleven extensions in the face of continued low employment rates and slumps in the economy. The benefit program was intended to provide federal coverage to those unemployed more than 26 weeks, at which point general state coverage expires and citizens are on their own. Now that unemployment benefits have ended for millions of Americans, many have resorted to withdrawing retirement finds, selling extra cars, or pawning personal possessions to scrape by. At this point 7 percent of Americans are unemployed, 3 percent lower than when the program was initiated but still high compared to the 5-6 percent that indicates a normal job market.
Arguments from both Democrat and Republican parties attempt to point out removing the unemployment benefits program may reduce unemployment numbers, but for the wrong reasons. With the policies dissolution, those who were receiving the benefits will no longer be counted by employment status counters. This will result in a lower official unemployment count even though the number of people who have found new jobs may have only increased by a fraction. As things stand, California, Nevada, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, are expected to be hit particularly hard by the loss of extra benefits as their unemployment rates are still high compared to other states.
Since unemployment benefits have ended for millions of Americans, arguments about what should be done about the millions unable to provide for themselves have raged between Democrat and Republican representatives in Congress. Democrats are saying the extra income is spent immediately which helps to stimulate the flagging economy and Republicans are saying the payouts are too expensive each year. As time passes and more U.S. citizens begin to be affected by the cut off, it is hoped that either Congress or President Obama can come to a decision that either solves or lessens the impending debt of millions. After a year of false starts and broken promises and his approval rating across the country at an all time low, the way Obama handles this newest crisis may decide his fate as President. Americans anxiously sit by, continually refreshing their resumes in hopes in finding a job that will resolve their dilemma as the timeline looms for millions to find work quickly to survive.
By Daniel O’Brien