While the worst of the icy weather may be over now, tens of thousands of jobless Virginians are about to be left out in the cold this winter if Congress ends funding for extended unemployment benefits.
The depths of the last downturn pushed hundreds of thousands of Virginians out of their jobs, and the state’s unemployment rate almost tripled. Even worse, so many people have had trouble getting back on their feet after losing their jobs that it now takes the average worker more than 35 weeks to find a new one – more than twice as long as before the recession.
To help all of these people struggling to find work, the federal government extended the length of time that the jobless could rely on unemployment insurance to 40 weeks from 26 weeks. This helped thousands of families make ends meet during hard times.
But these benefits are on the chopping block, even though finding a job hasn’t gotten much easier. The unemployment rate is still twice what it was before the recession. Thousands still rely on this extended assistance to help them make ends meet. Not only do these benefits help families stay afloat, the cash in customers’ pockets also give a boost to local businesses.
Ending these extended benefits will cut off nearly 10,000 Virginians just days after Christmas. Another 32,000 more people will run out of benefits by June. That means that, all told, Congress will leave almost 42,000 people in Virginia out in the cold if they let these benefits expire.
The House leaves Friday for the holiday recess; the Senate leaves next week. Almost 1.3 million people nationwide will lose this short-term help just three days after Christmas. By June more than 3.1 million will be affected. If lawmakers don’t step in, all of these people will spend the winter chilled to the bone.
—Mitchell Cole, Research Assistant