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Nearly 190,000 Jobless Michiganders Lose Benefits: Should Congress OK Extension?

Senate approval is likely, but it’s unclear whether House will consider extending the emergency benefits, which pumped $1 billion into Michigan economy in 2013.

President Obama plans to make extending federal emergency unemployment benefits will be a top priority.
President Obama plans to make extending federal emergency unemployment benefits will be a top priority.

The Obama administration says extending a lifeline to the nation’s long-term unemployed – including about 189,700 Michiganders who lost federal emergency benefits as 2013 closed – will be its top priority when the president returns to the White House this weekend.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, will bring the extension up on a fast-track vote, but it’s not known when – or if – the Republican-run House will consider it, USA Today reports. The bipartisan bill provides for a three-month extension of the federal benefits program for people who have been unemployed longer than six months.

Some 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment insurance on Dec. 28 after Congress failed to grant an extension, and millions more will lose long-term emergency benefits over the next 12 months.

The proposed extension would extend federal benefits for 4.1 million Americans who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.

According to November Labor Department statistics, those long-term unemployed accounted for 37.3 percent of the nation’s jobless rate – the highest since World War II. In Michigan, 2.6 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months.

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Should federal emergency benefits be extended to the long-term unemployed? Are there other strategies that should be consider to get Michiganders back to work? Tell us below in the comments.

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The Obama administration said failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance through 2014 will negatively affect 14 million Americans – the 4.9 million workers who will lose their unemployment benefits this year and the 9 million family members they’re supporting.

In Michigan, where the official unemployment rate is 9 percent, jobless workers will receive only 20 weeks of unemployment without an extension, rather than the 56 weeks offered under the special emergency provision, approved during the George W. Bush administration in 2008 in response to a spike in long-term unemployment during the Great Recession.

The special federal appropriation funded unemployment benefits for 24 million jobless Americans, costing $252 billion through the first half of 2013. Michigan residents received about $1 billion in federal emergency benefits in 2013.

The metro Detroit area has been particularly hard hit. By some estimates, Detroit’s actual unemployment rate hovered around 50 percent at the height of the recession, even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics officially put the figure much lower.

The government figures didn’t include part-time workers looking for part-time jobs and job hunters who abandoned their search altogether, and including those numbers made the situation in the Detroit metro more alarming, economists said.

That’s part of the problem.

The Washington Post said there’s little chance an extension would do much good because, statistically, people who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks have just a 12 percent chance of finding a new job in a given month. Those odds go down the longer a person remains out of work, the newspaper said, citing research showing prospects for the long-term unemployed are even worse today than they were in 2007.

To contact your lawmaker:

Find your state representative here.

Contact Sen. Carl Levin here.

Contact Sen. Debbie Stabenow here.

 

 

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