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Unemployment insurance fails in the Senate, leaves recession job-seekers without benefits

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014 8:10 p.m. MST

Legislation to restore unemployment insurance to more than a million jobless Americans failed to clear the Senate on Tuesday. The expiration of emergency benefits puts many long-term unemployed at the mercy of the recession.

Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

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Legislation to restore unemployment insurance to more than a million jobless Americans failed to clear the Senate on Tuesday.

Some 1.3 million workers lost their benefits on Dec. 28 when Congress failed to act. Each week since then, state benefits have expired for another 70,000 laid off workers, and there is nothing to take their place, reports the Huffington Post.

Republicans say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., didn’t allow them to amend the legislation; Reid says that Republicans filibustered and used procedure to cloak the fact that they didn’t want to restore benefits in the first place.

The expiration of emergency benefits puts many long-term unemployed at the mercy of the recession. According to the Washington Post, in 2013, many states offered up to 63 or 73 weeks of unemployment aid, but on Dec. 28, most states reverted to the pre-recession standard of only 26 weeks of benefits. As a result of the downturn, the average worker takes 35 weeks to find employment — so most jobless workers will now lose their benefits before they can find a job.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that nearly 5 million this year will lose benefits before they return to work, and people in every state will be impacted.

Marcia Carroll of Staunton, Va., who lost her job as a warehouse materials handler in July, told the Huffington Post that she hasn’t been able to keep up with her bills since her unemployment benefits expired last month. Caroll told the Huffington Post that she has applied for warehouse jobs, retail jobs and temp jobs, with no luck yet.

"Today I got three cancellation notices: my car insurance, my cable bill, my light bill," Carroll, 43, said in a phone interview Monday. "I don't have a fancy house, I don't have no credit card bills. [When I had the benefits] I could pay what I needed to pay. When you go from $340 a week to zero a week, you eat a lot of peanut butter."

The failure of benefits comes at a time when it’s especially tough for Americans to find jobs. The same report from the Washington Post says that there are two to nine unemployed workers for every job opening — worse odds than any time during the last recession in 2001. The strain of unemployment has now reached all kinds of Americans, according to a survey by the Urban Institute — young workers, married people with kids, college graduates and high school dropouts.

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