"Our Children and Grandchildren are not merely statistics towards which we can be indifferent" JFK

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Unemployment Limbo, "A Terrible, Terrible Thing"

CNBS Really Needs to Get Out and Spend
a few Minutes on Main Street.
The glass is not always 1/2 full Erin.

By Arthur Delaney
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Rona Wells of Las Vegas worries that she'll be homeless in no time if Congress fails to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits that are scheduled to expire next week.

"That's it. I'll be out on the street," Wells, 60, told HuffPost. "I have two checks left and those two checks are going to the rent. I'm not paying any bills, and so my bills are gonna be overdue, but I feel it's more important to have a roof over my head."

Wells said she lost her job as a telemarketer in January, along with 80 other people. "I was making very good money and they just closed the office," she said. "I came in on a Friday afternoon and right after lunch they said, 'Everybody go home.'"

She's been getting by thanks to the $375 she receives every week in unemployment benefits. The first six months were covered by the state. The federal government covered the next five as the first "tier" of a program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which, along with a program called Extended Benefits, provides up to 73 weeks of federally-funded jobless aid.

Those programs expire next week. About 800,000 people on Extended Benefits will be dropped almost immediately, according to the National Employment Law Project, and another 1.2 million will find themselves ineligible for the next tier of Emergency Unemployment Compensation over the course of December.

Nobody knows what to expect, but many suspect that Democrats will cut a strange deficit-busting deal with Republicans to preserve the benefits by attaching them to a reauthorization of expiring tax cuts for the rich. A coalition of 28 Senate Democrats led by Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Wednesday urging a hasty reauthorization.

"For the past six decades, Congress has provided federally funded unemployment insurance benefits during every recession," the letter said. "Further, federal unemployment insurance benefits have always been provided until the economy was on a stable path of growth. In fact, the highest unemployment rate at which federally funded unemployment benefits were not extended was 7.2 percent."

Wells said her job search has been "horrible." The unemployment rate in Nevada is 14.2 percent, the highest of any state. "I've been sending out resumes every week," Wells said. "I've been sending out maybe about 50 a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, and nobody ever answers you."

Members of Congress have no understanding of what it's like to struggle to find work, she said. "They don't understand that. They go home to their comfy homes and wonderful families and they have a paycheck that's given to them by us," she said. "I hope they [reauthorize the benefits] not only for myself but for everybody that's out there suffering. It's just a terrible, terrible thing."

Wells said she'll be unable to afford her COBRA health insurance payment in December. She's particularly annoyed that members of Congress receive comprehensive health insurance on the taxpayer dime. (If they paid for it themselves, it would save a few million dollars every year.)

"I think it's time that they start paying for their own medical care," she said. "People who go to work have to have their money taken out to pay for their own health care. Why shouldn't Congress do it? Why should they get a free ride?"

In addition to CBNS visiting Main Street, the Department of Labor could use some Main Street time in an effort see faces of those they seasonally adjust out of their reports. DOL seasonally adjust out 55,000 people

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