Congress allowed unemployment benefits to expire back in December, leaving over one million people who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks struggling to get by. That number has now increased to 3 million, and the frustration people have with the federal government is starting to grow as groups such as Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension Now continue their push to get Congress to act.
Members of Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension Now have shared their stories with The Washington Post.
“My husband and I want to live the American dream,” said Sandy LoBianco Ford regarding her financial struggles after being laid off in the summer of 2013.
“I pray every night that if we can just hold on a little longer, the bill will pass and people will be able to start digging out of this mess. We just need a little help to get us going in the right direction,” continued LoBianco Ford.
The current federal unemployment benefits system provides people who lose their jobs with 26 weeks of payments. Back in 2008, Congress voted to increase this to 99 weeks, but it was eventually cut down last year to 73 weeks.
By the end of December, Congress allowed federal aid to lapse, cutting off payments to those whose benefits expired.
“Our government has never terminated unemployment benefits when a full 35 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or more. It’s cruel,” said Rep. Sander M. Levin.
Levin is currently pushing the unemployment benefits extension fight in the House of Representatives.
“I blame this on our government. They don’t realize what this is doing to millions of people who are suffering,” wrote Kimberly Rowe on a facebook group supporting the extension of unemployment benefits.
Rowe’s husband killed himself over the mental anguish he faced trying to make ends meet every day once his checks were cut off last December.
The Center for Effective Government is another organization that is pushing for an extension to unemployment benefits.
“If we can let the American public understand what is going on here, they can potentially put pressure on the elected officials,” said Katherine McFate, CEO of the Center for Effective Government.
“Anytime we’re having these high levels of unemployment we’ve always had bipartisan passage of unemployment extension,” said McFate of the current gridlock in Congress over unemployment benefits.
The current level of public outcry, coupled with interest groups placing pressure on Congress to act, just may tip the scale in favor of those who are in need of unemployment benefits. If Congress does not act, they risk alienating millions of voters across America.