53,000 long-term unemployed Kentuckians will lose crucial income support in the next year if Congress does not reauthorize Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Created during the Great Recession and extended under the American Taxpayer Relief Act, EUC has increased the number of weeks Americans can collect unemployment benefits while they look for work in the still-sluggish economy. If EUC is allowed to expire on December 28, 2013, Kentuckians who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks will lose assistance immediately. By December of 2014, 53,000 long-term jobless Kentuckians will not have access to unemployment benefits.
The looming expiration comes at a very difficult time for the nation’s unemployed. As of September, the average length of unemployment was 36.9 weeks, 20 weeks longer than before the recession. More than one in three unemployed Americans have been without a job for more than six months—close to the historic high—and there are still three job-seekers for every one opening. In October, Kentucky still had 98,100 fewer jobs than it needs to return to pre-recession employment levels.
Removing benefits will not only hurt the Kentucky families who rely on the support, but will also harm the economy by taking money out of families’ pockets, reducing consumer demand. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the U. S. will shed an additional 310,000 jobs in 2014 if unemployment benefits are not extended.
This end to benefits would come on top of existing cuts: between October 2011 and October 2013, the length of time an unemployed Kentuckian could receive benefits decreased by 36.4 percent. The federal sequester cut weekly benefits by about $39. Recent reductions in SNAP benefits and the sequester’s impact on other crucial supports such as low-income energy assistance and child care subsidies are also hurting Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens.
Reauthorizing emergency unemployment compensation is the least Congress can do to keep from harming a fragile recovery.
*Blog updated to reflect new information about the number of Kentuckians affected by the EUC expriation and the Kentucky jobs deficit.