Happy Holidays? Not for Everybody

Not for 1.3 Million Unemployed Americans, Not for Millions of Children in Poverty

Last week, Congress left Washington DC for its holiday vacation without completing urgent business for American families. As a result, 1.3 million jobless workers now receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation will receive no benefits after Christmas. Another 3 to 4 million will lose benefits in 2014.

Emergency federal unemployment insurance programs are designed to phase down as the labor market improves and eventually expire.  The phasing down is underway — the maximum number of weeks has fallen from 99 to 73. While the reported unemployment rate has fallen in recent months, the share of the population with a job, which plunged in the recession to levels last seen in the 1980s, has changed little since the recession began in 2008.  The recession drove many people out of the labor force, and lack of job opportunities in the ongoing jobs slump has kept many potential jobseekers on the sidelines.  Many of these people have children to support, would like to work and, in a stronger labor market, they would likely have a job or at least be looking, but they are not looking actively enough to be counted as officially unemployed.

Despite inattention in Congress, long-term unemployment remains a significant concern for too many workers.  Nearly two-fifths of the 11 million people who are unemployed have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer. These long-term unemployed represent 2.6 percent of the labor force, twice as high as during previous economic downturns.

As always, Congress needs to hear from you. The first order of business when they return in 2014 should be to immediately restore this vital support for struggling families. Click here to contact your members.  Not surprisingly, Congress made sure that no wealthy corporations lost any of their tax breaks in the 2014 budget.

In addition, please take a look at Save the Children’s Mark Shriver’s piece in the New York Times called “Sunday Dialogue: Lifting Kids Out of Poverty”. It includes responses from me and others concerned with child poverty. Mark’s father, Sargent Shriver, was President Lyndon Johnson’s chief lieutenant in the War on Poverty, which is marking its 50th anniversary.

And thanks to all of you for your support in 2013. We look forward to working with you on behalf of kids and families in 2014. Have a great New Year!