800,000 of the 15 million unemployed
Americans received their final unemployment
benefits check. Happy Holiday Greetings
from your elected "representatives."
(No need to panic, Obama stated he had a productive meeting
with the Republican leadership yesterday...you know, that
The Associated Press, Reuters,
NBC News and msnbc.com staff
contributed to this report.
Extended unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million Americans begin to run out Wednesday, cutting off a steady stream of income and guaranteeing a dismal holiday season for people already struggling with bills they cannot pay.
Unless Congress changes its mind, benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end this month.
Hours before beefed-up benefits were set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, Democrats sought to extend them for another year. But they were blocked by Republican Senator Scott Brown, who said Democrats should have taken time to work out a compromise.
"It's not the way to do business in the United States Senate, and if it is it needs to change," Brown said.
With the unemployment rate stuck at around 9.6 percent, the two parties have been sharply divided over how to cover the cost of weekly checks that help jobless people stay afloat.
Congress has let jobless benefits lapse twice already this year as Republicans insist the cost — $160 billion in the last fiscal year — be offset by cuts elsewhere to prevent the nation's $13.8 trillion debt from growing further.
"I think we have to deal with the immediate crisis," Democratic Senator Jack Reed said. "I think we have to deal with the families that are struggling today."
Jobless benefits usually expire after six months, but since the recession took hold in 2007 Congress has voted to extend them for up to 99 weeks.
Nearly half of the 15 million unemployed people in the United States have been out of work for more than six months, the highest level of long-term unemployment since the government began keeping track in the 1940s.
Christmas is out of the question for Wayne Pittman, 46, of Lawrenceville, Ga., and his wife and 9-year-old son. The carpenter was working up to 80 hours a week at the beginning of the decade, but saw that gradually drop to 15 hours before it dried up completely. His last $297 check will go to necessities, not presents.
"I have a little boy, and that's kind of hard to explain to him," Pittman said.
The average weekly unemployment benefit in the U.S. is $302.90, though it varies widely depending on how states calculate the payment. Because of supplemental state programs and other factors, it's hard to know for sure who will lose their benefits at any given time. But the Labor Department estimates that, without a Congress-approved extension, about 2 million people will be cut off by Christmas. Complete MSNBC Article