Failure to Renew Federal Jobless Benefits Harms Wisconsin Residents
Congress has failed to extend federal emergency jobless benefits, harming tens of thousands of jobless workers in Wisconsin and the businesses that depend on them as customers. Since federal benefits were abruptly cut off at the end of 2013, 35,000 jobless workers in Wisconsin have been cut off or denied access to federal unemployment benefits so far. That number continues to grow by about 1,500 every week that Congress fails to take action.
The end of federal unemployment benefits means that workers in Wisconsin who have been searching for a job for a long time will lose $361 million in federal assistance that they would have otherwise received in 2014 if the program had been kept at the same level as it was in 2013. The failure to reauthorize federal unemployment benefits means that jobless workers will have less money to spend at local businesses, costing the Wisconsin economy 5,200 jobs over the course of 2014, according to the National Employment Law Project.
In 2012, unemployment benefits lifted an estimated 38,000 Wisconsin residents out of poverty, including 9,000 children. Although state residents will still have access to 26 weeks of state-funded unemployment benefits, the complete loss of federal benefits means that fewer Wisconsinites will be lifted out of poverty. It is an especially harsh blow now for people struggling to pay their soaring heating bills.
A proposal to extend federal unemployment benefits for an additional three months has gotten stuck in the U.S. Senate, with nearly all Republican senators supporting a filibuster that has kept the bill from getting a vote on its merits. The $6.4 billion cost of the Democratic proposal is paid for by increased revenue that results from a tax change for employers. Even if the Senate does pass a bill reauthorizing federal unemployment benefits, the members in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have not shown much interest in approving an extension.
As a result of congressional inaction on federal unemployment benefits, tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents who have lost their job through no fault of their own have lost access to this vital lifeline.