Tue December 17, 2013

Federal Benefits Cutoff Looms For Long-Term Unemployed

Up to 26,000 unemployed Colorado residents face more economic hardship this month if Congress does not vote to extend federal jobless benefits into 2014.

Under the current benefits, Coloradans who have exhausted 26 weeks of state money could collect federal benefits for another 37 weeks. The federal money was put in place at the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008 to help people after their state unemployment ran out.

Economists agree the cuts - which take effect Dec. 31 - will have a wide-reaching impact, not only on families but on the overall economy as well. 

Kathy White with the Colorado Fiscal Institute says the timing is especially bad.

"It's coming at the end of the year," says White tells Colorado News Connection. "I think that if people know that the likelihood that they may be losing their only benefit, it will make it a much tighter holiday season overall for everyone."

Cher Haavind with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment agrees losing that long-term assistance will be a blow to the state’s jobless, who are already struggling.

"The longer you’re out of work -- sometimes that is the hardest population to get re-employed," Haavind tells Colorado Public Radio. "Those are some critical benefits that have helped Coloradans through long periods of unemployment."

The state has been contacting people about job search and training services available at dozens of local workforce centers around Colorado – including a program just launched to hire temporary flood recovery workers.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates extending the benefits for another two years would cost $26 billion, but would add the equivalent of 200,000 jobs to the economy. Opponents of an extension argue it would add too much debt.

The bipartisan budget bill, which is up for a vote in the U.S. Senate Tuesday, does not include an extension. Congress could vote to retroactively extend the emergency benefits in January.

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