EUC too important to let slip away

Tuesday December 11, 2012

When the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program expires on Jan. 3 next year, roughly 1,400 Vermonters will lose their benefits.

The Vermont Department of Labor, in a release on Monday, stated that it would have "no funding or authority to continue to pay EUC benefits for any weeks after the week of Dec. 29."

The EUC has been extended by Congress 10 times in the past four years, but there’s no indication that, this time around, lawmakers intend to do so.

Can you say Fiscal Cliff?

And so, the Vermont Department of Labor has begun the process of notifying claimants through mail, online filing notifications and press releases that their benefits are soon to cease.

Which is pretty unfortunate when you think about it. The EUC program provides additional weeks of unemployment benefits to people still looking for jobs after their state benefits run out. Since 2008, more than $246 million in federally funded unemployment benefits was provided to nearly 30,000 Vermonters.

And before we start arguing about lazy people living off the government, consider this: As Chad Stone pointed out in a piece published by the Huffington Post last week, "EUC has a high ‘bang-for-the-buck’ impact as stimulus because jobless workers spend the money fast and its effects spread through the economy."

Stone cites a report from the Congressional Budget Office which estimates that another year of EUC would cost about $30 billion. However, that money "would boost gross domestic product by 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent next year and raise full-time-equivalent employment by 100,000 to 500,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013. It also would help millions of jobless workers and their families make ends meet."

At the peak of the economic downturn, Vermonters potentially qualified for up to 47 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation. That’s after exhausting their regular 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. However, according to the Vermont Department of Labor, due to the states’s improved unemployment numbers, the maximum EUC weeks dropped to 26 weeks in June, and then to 14 in September following Congressional action.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the economy to recover.

Should EUC continue forever? Of course not. And, as Stone points out, since EUC is a temporary program, it doesn’t contribute to deficits over the long term.

According to October’s jobs report, almost 41 percent of the 12.3 million unemployed have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer. Much like Vermont, almost every other state in the country offers 26 weeks of unemployment or fewer. Only neighboring Massachusetts and Montana offer more.

In a follow-up post on Monday, Stone made a case for why a cut at this time, with still so many Americans unemployed, is unprecedented in our country’s short history. We’ll spare you the numbers, except to point out that, according to most studies, the national unemployment rate shows no signs of rapidly changing in the next 12 months.

When you consider how many people can be helped by this program, not to mention how many still need this program, along with the fact that, through it’s very nature this assistance trickles through various other aspects of the economy, how could you not support its extension?

We urge lawmakers to continue funding the program while the country regains it’s economic footing. To not do so is foolish and short-sighted.


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