Here’s where the end of unemployment benefits will hurt the most

December 6, 2013

House Ways and Means Committee ranking Democrat Sander Levin (left) is warning that 1.3 million people stand to lose unemployment benefits just after Christmas. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

More than a million people could get their last unemployment checks just after Christmas if Congress doesn’t vote to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program before breaking for the holidays.

Unemployment insurance programs have already seen big cutbacks. The average weekly benefit for unemployed Americans fell by $42, to $256, thanks to federal budget sequestration, and the length of time an unemployed worker is eligible for benefits has dropped by a third.

According to a report from Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, California would be hardest hit, with more than 214,000 people set to lose benefits. More than 127,000 New Yorkers will lose their monthly checks, while tens of thousands in Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Texas will see their benefits end.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of those who stand to lose unemployment benefits:

(Note: North Carolina ended their unemployment benefits program in July)

Capitol Hill aides say there is little chance of an extension passing before Congress leaves Washington. At his weekly news conference Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner placed blame at President Obama’s feet.

“If the President has a plan for extending unemployment benefits, I would surely entertain taking a look at it, but I would argue the President’s real focus ought to be creating a better environment for our economy and creating more jobs for the American people,” Boehner said. “That is where the focus is; not more government programs.”

In a conference call Thursday, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), said ending the benefit programs would have real economic consequences. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that extending the benefits for another year would create 300,000 jobs, and Levin said every dollar spent on unemployment compensation creates $1.52 in new economic activity.

Most states supplement unemployment benefits in some way, and another 1.9 million people will face benefit cuts in the first half of next year, when the state programs start running out of money.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson · December 6, 2013