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Child Watch® Column: "Extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefits Now!"

Release Date: December 27, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

In the last few days of this year, most Americans are wrapping up their holiday celebrations and pondering the promise of 2014. But millions of Americans who have been struggling the longest to find work in our slowly recovering economy are now facing deep uncertainty and despair instead of a Happy New Year. The budget deal Congress finally reached in December did not extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed and 1.3 million struggling jobseekers are losing those desperately needed survival benefits on December 28. Unless Congress acts immediately in the new year to extend these benefits, huge numbers of struggling jobseekers will be affected: the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates almost five million jobless workers will lose benefits over the next twelve months. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors estimates that if Congress lets emergency unemployment insurance expire, it will cost the economy 240,000 jobs and impact families with 3.6 million children by the end of 2014.

Federal emergency unemployment insurance benefits were designed to be a critical safety net for unemployed workers who have exhausted regular state unemployment insurance payments. During the recent recession the number of unemployed workers unable to find new jobs before their regular benefits ran out has soared. Although the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program had already started phasing down as the labor market improved, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out it’s still far too soon to let the program expire completely since almost two-fifths -- 4.1 million of the 10.9 million unemployed — are long-term unemployed who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer. Although the overall unemployment rate went down in November, the proportion of long-term unemployed workers rose from 36.9 percent to 37.3, double the rate in 2007 before the recession hit. This is the first time Congress has let long-term unemployment insurance benefits expire when the long-term jobless were more than 1.3 percent of the labor force. Today 2.6 percent of the labor force is long-term unemployed in our still sluggish economy.

New jobs are desperately needed in this “post-recession” economy. One recent example in the nation’s capital paints the picture. Walmart was opening two new stores and offering 600 jobs for which 23,000 jobseekers applied. People desperately want to work! Getting a job at Walmart has become as competitive as getting into Harvard. We don’t know how many of those 23,000 jobseekers were long-term unemployed workers. What we do know is that employers tend to discriminate against those workers and hire people who want to change jobs or have only been unemployed for a short time first. Congress must act to support the millions of Americans and their children who have been tossed around in our stormy economic seas by extending emergency unemployment insurance and focus on creating more jobs.

All of us at the Children’s Defense Fund were disappointed when budget negotiators and Congress failed in this budget deal to ask the richest Americans and corporations to pay their fair share or close even the smallest and most egregious tax loopholes that could fund desperately needed investments in children and poor families and strengthen the American economy. Helping workers without jobs who are seeking employment should be an obvious lifeline during periods of economic downturn and recovery. In 2012, 2.5 million people escaped poverty through unemployment compensation including 600,000 children. Many families who lose unemployment insurance benefits, especially long-term jobless workers, will face poverty again. They may have to rely on other government supports like the nearly-disappeared Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which Congress cut in November and the House of Representatives is threatening to slash again by $40 billion as part of the farm bill. Allowing emergency unemployment insurance benefits to expire on top of cuts to SNAP and other programs is cruel and unnecessary and asks sacrifices from those least able to bear it.

Please ask your Senators and Representatives to act now to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits as soon as they return in January to assist those who need help most in this jobless recovery.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Mike at: January 25, 2014
I support everything you do and stand for. Yet I wish we could all stand up and demand the obvious. Americans have the right to a job sufficient to feed, clothe educate and house their family - it is a human right, not a privilege. If a person is unable to work because of disability or age, they have the right to an income to live a life of dignity - and can contribute what they are able. The long term savings from the reduction of the societal costs of poverty would probably pay for this immediately, not to mention the increase to productivity, taxes etc. The government should mandate a living minimum wage, and a gross receipts tax on all corporations that access our markets to generate sufficient $$ to directly employ everyone who the private sector cannot accommodate. Like the war on drugs, we should acknowledge the truth to the failure of the war on poverty despite large dollars spent and take a different tack.

Submitted by mandy at: December 30, 2013
I have always been employed over 14 yrs with the same employer now that i need assistance this is happening to hard working people who need assistance.funding is extended for other stuff not relevant to our future.act now to extend.

Submitted by HW at: December 29, 2013
Marion - You continue to be a clear and reasoned voice for those whom our government has forgotten.- (an old neighbor from Waban

Submitted by Sheelagh at: December 29, 2013
Not giving additional unemployment insurance will hurt thousands of families especially those with children. There are few resources left after long time unemployment.

Submitted by AP at: December 29, 2013
I have been employed since I was 14 and Im now 28. I lost my job in June 2013 and am still unemployed. Myself and my child will be affected by the denial to extend unemployment. Its a shame that the ones that need it the most continue to be treated the worst.

Submitted by Hope at: December 29, 2013
Thank you for sharing what is happening in our country and explaining it in a way that is easily understood. In a culture that is filled with minute by minute distraction you find that many young Americans are unaware of what is taking place in their own government or find it hard to comprehend. Your column this week helps to easily understand what is happening, how it affects us or our neighbors and most importantly our children and also offers a suggestion for how to improve the uncomfortable situation. Please continue to write and keep us aware and we will continue to share your column among our friends, family and coworkers and implement the plans of action you suggest that we all can be of assistance to you and your mission for the improved well being of our nation's children. Again Thank You.

Submitted by Bowler at: December 28, 2013
I understand that individuals should not be looking for a handout but when people have worked and contributed their fair share, they should be helped when they need it. It's a shame that Cingress and anyone else would even think of cutting off funds THAT WOULD HELP FAMILIES, CHILDREN AND EVEN SINGLES. We already have a high unemployment rate ( and that's including people who are looking for work). There has 2 be some emergency funds somewhere to individuals who are/were receiving benefits. Do you Congress and ANYONE else associated with this fiasco want to contribute more to the homeless community? You all are the powers that be and can STOP THIS CRAP!!

Submitted by surina at: December 28, 2013
As a single mother of 2 and raising 3 of my 5 grandchildren with one income life is a little tuff. I'm not complaining because it wouldn't help anyways, as I'm sure someone somewhere else has it worst then my family. I am saying that all of the cuts that we as Americans are suffering from is a painful pill to swallow. I work as a Unit Secretary for a Level 2 Trauma Hospital.. You would think I should be able to afford Basic Medical and Food for my family, But I cant I have health coverage through my job but I would almost rather die before I go to even the very hospital I am employed at ,,,, I cant afford the co-pay and that's nothing compared too my out of pocket charge . My children and grand children are covered through the state. Thank God. My family receives snap to help with the food cost but that has decreased again I'm not complaining because I am greatful but we are often the last week and a half of the month without the basic's. No milk for the babies no meat in the freezer.. Im employed my hours are cut to almost half each week im searching for a second job. Life is hard. Im not pointing fingers at anyone. This is my life. My family and I are rolling with the punches. We couldn't give food too the next family this year because we are self was in need. So we gave our extra blankets, and gently worn coats to the homeless. Everyone should give of their self in some sort of manor. The RICH really should stop complaining they have NO clue what TUFF is. Tell your children there will be no Christmas this year or school pictures no we cant afford them, or better yet we will wash cloth as soon as mommy gets paid. Im just wondering where exactly is the compassion for your fellow neighbor? we are all just trying to make it .. and we are all just 1 step away from being homeless.

Submitted by PAW at: December 28, 2013
I totally agree! We need to extend unemployment benefits ASAP!

Submitted by My Brother's Keeper at: December 28, 2013
If Congress is determined to make others suffer, why don't they lead the way by cutting its own salaries and benefits. Many have not easned the salary they are drawing. I say it is time to let many of these Individuals experience some unemployment. So, Let's stop electing and re-electing people who don't care about their fellowman. Let them see what it feels like to work for the minimum wage and lose unemployment benefit when they cannot find a job. This is within our power. Why do we persist in rewarding those who hurt others?

Submitted by Jackie O at: December 28, 2013
I am a volunteer at the only Family Homeless Shelter in Middle TN. When I am there at nights I see the parents diligently working on the computers looking for ANY job. Many of the families here are long term unemployed. Each night I see in their faces the frustrations and sadness that they can not provide for their families. I KNOW THE TRUTH. THESE PEOPLE WANT TO WORK. Work is them dignity, independence, self-worth and freedom from free of starving, homelessness and at this time of the year, illness or freezing in the cold. THEY ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A HAND OUT BUT A HAND UP. My pray this year is that corporations step up to the plate even if it means lower benefits for stock holders or lower salaries for executives to create more jobs that will create a new middle class. COMPASSION AND SACRIFICE IS THE KEY. I do not want to see a child die.

Submitted by Pete at: December 28, 2013
I like this column and believe more attention should be paid to not only unemployed workers, but under employed workers, who unfortunately are taken off the unemployed data roles and are considered completely employed??

Submitted by Sheila at: December 28, 2013
Good people who desperately want work deserve this money.

Submitted by Motownmom25 at: December 28, 2013
People here in MI have bachelors & Masters Degrees and are working for minimum wage because they are just out of college. Then the people over 50 who have the same degree are not even interviewed that have experience. It is not better here. People have to work 2 minimum wage jobs to live and then they cut everyone's food stamps. Then some Congressman wants the children to clean the schools to get their free lunch. Some of of these are military families and their pay and benefits have also been cut. How about no more raises to Congress that they give them selves every year. That should be voted on by the people and I am sure they would not be getting one next year.Pathetic what they have done to the American people. Vote them out on 2014.

Submitted by Much Prayer at: December 28, 2013
if it was the relatives of some of those Republican congresspersons, how do you think they would feel. They went on vacation--what is wrong with our President going on vacation. Is it because he is Black. Let's face it. Much prejudice and hatred is still in existence. Our children need to be supported in this economy. People need to get to the Polls as fast as possible and get those hostile so-called congresspersons out of office. Out children don't need to witness such. Let us pray for them.

Submitted by Leslie at: December 28, 2013
That one may work Full-Time at the current Minimum Wage, and still be at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is shameful. Those who have been without work for a long time are less likely to become employed. Some in Congress wish to cut forms of assistance such as SNAP, Head Start, and even Unemployment Insurance. Without even that income, more people will need Food Pantries, Soup Kitchens, Homeless Shelters and other forms of help. Charities are unable to take care of the demand now! Unemployment Insurance must be continued!

Submitted by Linda at: December 28, 2013
Please help.

Submitted by Ela at: December 28, 2013
If people cannot find work in a time of high unemployment, cutting them off won't change anything. An doing in the winter is the worst possible time.

Submitted by Bob at: December 28, 2013
A country's reputation should largely be measured by how it treats its least prosperous citizens. That being the case, our current reputation is analogous to the class bully--the 1% continue to steal lunch money from the rest of us, and for some reason we are too paralyzed to fight back. It is time to stop being bullied. Give those who need it the unemployment compensation they deserve so they can get back on their feet and begin to try to earn just a little piece of the pie for themselves. Stop the Greed, Give to those in Need.

Submitted by Pepper at: December 28, 2013
By virtue of the fact that there are so many people eligible for the Emergency Extended Benefits is proof in and of itself that these are persons with a history of working for a living.Unless they had a responsible history of working they would not even be eligible for the extended benefits in the first place. We're not asking Congress to do anything but what us decent and right. Take care of those who are the least able to assist themselves at this time in their lives.God has His way if humbling even the most arrogant of people. Why not learn from Jung Nebuchadnezzar. Seven years he crawled in his hands and feet like an animal until he came to his senses and acknowledged the one true God. God still reigns supreme not congress!