Unless Congress acts by December 30, the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (EUC) will come to an end in New York State. By the first of the year, the program will have ended all across the country. What a way for the unemployed to start the New Year!
State unemployment compensation lasts just 26 weeks, hardly long enough when the economy is as slow as it is today. In New York, EUC can offer up to 53 additional weeks of compensation. This is vitally needed aid, and it helps everyone because the typical $300 weekly payment gets plowed right back into the economy to buy groceries, purchase other essentials, and pay the rent. Millionaires can take the federal benefits they receive through tax cuts and deductions out of the economy by putting their money in the bank. The unemployed don’t have that luxury.
Nationwide, about 2 million unemployed will lose their emergency benefits if Congress fails to act. We don’t know precisely how many will suffer in the 23rd congressional district, but we do know that unemployment is running at near 9% in Elmira, at 6.6% in Yates, and 5.8% in Ithaca. Many of our neighbors are going to be hurt.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Gary Peters (Michigan) and Rep. Barbara Lee (California) are circulating a letter asking for a vote to protect our nation’s most vulnerable families by extending emergency unemployment benefits. Seventy-eight members have signed on so far – our own Rep. Tom Reed not among them.
The Lee-Peters letter is basically a Democratic Party effort, so perhaps Rep. Reed’s reluctance is understandable. But if he can’t bring himself to sign this letter, perhaps Reed could show some initiative and launch an effort of his own to extend EUC. This would be a tremendous help to the unemployed and to the district as a whole.