This week, the U.S. Senate finally broke a filibuster by conservatives
to approve an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) for 2.5 million
people who lost their benefits when the program expired last month. The
House is expected to approve the bill today, which extends the program
through November, offering the long-term unemployed up to 99 weeks of
aid and making benefits retroactive to June 2 when the program expired.
The country is still reeling from the effects of the downturn. Though
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has undoubtedly benefited the economy, there are still 15
million Americans out of work.
While the Great Recession has been hard on families across the country,
both states and the federal government have stepped up in unprecedented
ways to ease the financial burden on the unemployed through extended
benefits and modernization of state programs. Compared to pre-recession
rules that generally provided only 26 weeks of unemployment insurance,
federal action extended support for up to 99 weeks in states hit hardest
by the recession.
Last month, President Barack Obama signed the $17.5 billion Hiring
Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act into law to assist small
businesses and spur job creation. This was definitely a start, but the
gravity of the current crisis demands much bolder and quicker action.
Congress needs to enact further state fiscal relief to support jobs and
avoid the massive layoffs that threaten social and economic vitality in
In the State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama stated, "...jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill."
With the fiscal crisis forcing states to layoff hundreds of thousands
of teachers, nurses and police officers, the need for more federal job
creation and state fiscal relief support is clear. And there is
substantial momentum building around this issue in the states.