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Amy Traub

In Search of Yet ANOTHER Jobless Fix

This one should have been a no-brainer. 15.7 million Americans are out of a job. In October, more than a third of them had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. And tentative signs of recovery notwithstanding, there just aren't enough jobs out there for everyone looking for work. We can (and must) discuss additional stimulus and job creation measures but one thing should be self-evident: we've got to keep providing an economic lifeline to families who lost a paycheck through no fault of their own and can't find new employment. Extending unemployment benefits helps families keep food on the table and keep the lights on. By sustaining some of their consumption, it also stimulates the broader economy, helping others stay in business and hold onto a job.

Now millions of jobless Americans will prematurely stop receiving benefits in 2010 unless Congress acts quickly. Haven't we heard this all before? Didn't Congress, after much delay, finally pass the extension of unemployment benefits workers desperately needed just this month? They did. And they screwed it up. Apparently the last extension of benefits - the one that, as my colleague Harry Moroz explained couldn't pass the Senate until it was larded down with costly tax breaks that will do little to spur economic growth - contained a glitch that will render millions of unemployed workers ineligible for continued benefits in 2010.

At best, Congress will quickly fix their mistake, preventing families from feeling the catastrophic impact of even a temporary loss of benefits. They could even append some genuine job creation measures to the bill. At worst, the legislation will be delayed yet again, hostage to yet more measures that expend public resources without creating the jobs we need. Best wishes for a decent bill before the New Year.

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Posted at 11:20 AM, Nov 19, 2009 in Employment | Stimulus
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