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22 Days After Congress Cut Unemployment Insurance, Still No Movement

It has been 22 days since some unemployment insurance recipients stopped receiving benefits, as the extenders bill — also known as the jobs bill or H.R. 4213 — took considerable time and cuts to make it through the House, and has stalled in the Senate for nearly a month now. To move the bill, senators took out the Medicare provision and passed it separately. They then cut extra Medicaid funding to the states, funding that would have gone to things like domestic violence prevention. As many states are already committed to spending on the program and are loath to make cuts, they will instead cut elsewhere and fire workers, sometimes by the thousands. The bill is still stalled.

In the meantime, 903,000 unemployment insurance recipients have stopped receiving extended federal benefits. The National Employment Law Project has been blasting out one story a day from an unemployed worker facing poverty due to the joblessness crisis and Congressional inaction. Here’s today’s, from a broadcast radio worker laid off 18 months ago in Birmingham, Mich., the state with the second-highest unemployment rate in the country:

** **I had a radio show in Detroit for 15 1/2 years. I was let go recently due to budget cuts. When I found out I was going to be let go, I offered to stay for LESS than one-half my pay but I was told even that was too much to satisfy the budget cuts. A few months later, the company hired me back to do a part-time show paying $15.00 an hour for 25 hours a week. When I found out about this opportunity, I was ecstatic. Although it wasn’t a full-time job, it was income coming in that my family desperately needed to survive. However, this opportunity soon fell through…I was devastated.

I can’t find another job. I send out hundreds of applications a day, no call backs. Radio stations use voice tracking, which eliminates the need for real human beings. The full-timers tape the weekend shows so there aren’t even part-time positions anymore. And to add increased strain on my family life, my husband is now unemployed as well. He has an MBA and worked for years as an engineer.

During these past few years, we’ve lost 2 houses; it’s been awful. Unemployment insurance has helped keep food on the table when I had no clue where my family’s next meal was going to come from…and without the COBRA subsidy, I would have gone this entire time without health coverage. However, with my COBRA subsidy ending in July, I can’t afford health insurance for myself or my family….it’s too expensive.

The impasse has Democrats incensed. Yesterday, for instance, Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin (Md.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Bob Casey (Pa.) led a fiery press conference on the matter. “Continued obstruction in the Senate could lead to 20,000 layoffs in Pennsylvania alone and poses a threat to public safety and schools,” Casey said. “Despite majority support, states around the country are facing harmful real world consequences because a minority of senators are blocking funding.” Democratic Sens. Casey, Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) argued for immediate passage of the bill on the floor yesterday night. Still, no movement yet. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to be able to move the bill this week.

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