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Reinstate Unemployment Insurance

Posted by: Gordon on 1/3/2014
By Ana Garcia Ashley, Gamaliel Executive Director

I’ve spent much of the last two weeks celebrating the Christmas season with family and friends. I’ve heard the story again of the young, working-class family seeking shelter, of the innkeeper who opened the door and found room for them, and of the angels who shared their story and proclaimed good news and peace to the poor yet hard-working shepherds.

Next week I will be back on the road, traveling to work with Gamaliel affiliates in Chicago, Youngstown and Milwaukee. For approximately 325,000 people in these three states alone, however, the news is not good.

Emergency unemployment compensation expired for half of them just three days after Christmas, because Congress left Washington to spend time with their families without extending this important benefit program. Benefits will expire for the other half during the next six months. The unemployed in those three states are just a small number of all those affected across the country--1.3 million already, and twice that many as benefits continue to expire in the first half of 2014.

Congress needs to reinstate unemployment compensation.

I'll be speaking about this and calling on members of Congress to do so in each city I visit. Even better, next week Metropolitan Congregations United in St. Louis and other affiliates elsewhere plan actions to urge U.S. Senators to extend unemployment. MCU President Jim Sahaida and the Rev. Jonathan Stratton of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri will be at the the city’s job training center for a special religious service calling on Congress to immediately reauthorize federal jobless aid.

This infographic our partners at National Employment Law Project put out just before the holiday helps sum it up:

unemployment benefits infographic
 
The story does not end with those who lose this support. Their states’ economies will suffer, because jobless Americans tend to spend their unemployment insurance right away for food, housing, and transportation. As unemployment insurance ends for families across the country, the effect will be felt all through the economy.

Early calculations indicate that in the week since EUC expired, the national economy has taken a $400 million hit because of lost revenues; and the Congressional Budget Office predicts more job loss as a result.
 
Congress can deliver a better ending to this story, and it starts with a “yes” vote to reinstate unemployment benefits to the millions of hard-working Americans.  Then, we can finally get down to the business of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and sluggish economy and put people back to work in career-path jobs.
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