Nationwide, 2 million people -- including 200,000 people in New York -- will stop receiving emergency unemployment benefits by January 1, if legislators in Congress do not reconcile the budget, according to data from the National Employment Law Project.
These are emergency unemployment benefits-- not regular unemployment assistance. But, according to the Department of Labor, close to 50 percent of New Yorkers on unemployment have gone past their 26 weeks, still have not found a job and are now receiving the federally funded emergency checks.
Well, these emergency benefits are part of the “fiscal cliff” budget negotiations going on now in Congress and are set to expire at the end of the year. Additionally, unlike in years past, the payments would not phase out gradually, but rather, stop suddenly
But it was not without warning: On November 30, the 200,000 New Yorkers on emergency benefits received a letter telling them to prepare for the possibility of seeing their benefits end.
The letter even tells them to begin considering other forms of government assistance, such as food stamps.
Currently, the maximum number of weeks a person can collect unemployment is 63. But at one time-- since the economy first began failing in 2008-- it was as high as 99 weeks.
Many in Congress think it should be even lower than the current 63 weeks. Some even feel that the economy has recovered well enough that the need for emergency benefits is not as great as it was one or two years ago.
And so far, Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s latest package does not include any provisions for emergency unemployment extensions.
What do think? Is it time to begin curbing emergency extensions for unemployment, or should emergency extensions be included as a serious part of the fiscal cliff budget negotiations.