The House and Senate still have not come to an agreement on extending unemployment benefits for jobless workers. The federal unemployment provisions for emergency and extended benefits are set to expire during the first week in January. The U.S. Labor Department estimates that 3.6 million jobless Americans will lose benefits by March if nothing is done to extend the federal program. Currently the states finance up to 26 weeks of jobless benefits with the federal government adding up to 73 weeks of benefits, totaling 99 weeks of possible unemployment benefits. The average unemployed workers is out of work for 41 weeks.
Republicans in Congress seek to reduce the maximum total number of weeks to 59, add unreasonable eligibility requirements, and implement pervasive drug-testing of all unemployed workers. All of these proposals further prevent economic recovery, undermine the spirit of the unemployment system, and essentially tar the unemployed as drug addicts. Republican obstructionism and inaction has reached a critical point, and without action on these issues the nation will face even greater hardship than the Great Recession has already inflicted. More coverage here.