Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Safety net for unemployed disappears as politicians argue

Safety net for unemployed disappears as politicians argue

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In just one week and in just one state — last week in Missouri — more than 8,300 people fell through the unemployment insurance safety net.

Actually, their nets were removed.

The result: Those who have lost jobless benefits already are turning in greater numbers to food pantries and other emergency aid programs, both government and nonprofit.

"We're hearing from more people needing assistance," said Ron Howard, spokesman for the United Way of Greater Kansas City. "Our 2-1-1 call center is seeing an increase in calls, especially from first-time callers.

"Without a doubt, the loss of that unemployment check is a contributing factor."

Loss of jobs and jobless benefits also is contributing to a rise in applications for Social Security disability payments from unsuccessful job hunters.

That search for subsistence funds revved up last month after the U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would have included more than $35 billion to fund another extension of emergency unemployment assistance.

Since 2008, after the nation slipped into its worst recession in 70 years, the government has authorized four "tiers" of emergency federal help for the jobless. Some workers may be eligible for as many as 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

But recent policy decisions are tilting in favor of federal deficit control. On Tuesday, the U.S. House rejected a bill focused on extending unemployment benefits. And for the third time in as many weeks, Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday successfully filibustered a bill to extend them. As a result, about 200,000 people a week around the country are likely to lose their jobless benefits.

Today, the House plans to vote again on extending benefits, but the Senate’s action likely renders it a futile gesture as Congress gets ready to depart for its Fourth of of July recess.

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