Congress Does Not Extend Federal Unemployment Benefits

December 9, 2003 ( - The US House of Representatives has decided against extending federal unemployment benefits before Congress adjourns for the year.

>The Republican-led House cited an improved economy as the reason not to extend unemployment benefits for a fourth time.   Among signs of an economic turnaround is a drop in the unemployment rate below 6% in recent months, according to an Associated Press report.  

>An extension to federal unemployment benefits is meant as a buffer to state provided benefits.   Most states provide up to 26 weeks of aid to people who lose their jobs. In March last year, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and a subsequent downturn in the economy, Congress voted to add 13 weeks in federal benefits, with extra help for jobless Americans in states with high unemployment rates.

>Congress also left last December without reauthorizing the federal program.    However, the program was extended soon after lawmakers returned in January (See President Inks Benefits Extension ).    Without legislative action this year, though, the benefits will be phased out beginning December 21.  

>Democrats criticize the timing of the decision, saying it would mean a joyless Christmas for tens of thousands of jobless Americans.   “It’s almost inconceivable to me that Republican leaders are poised to play the Grinch again,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told the AP.

RepresentativeStenyHoyer, (D-Maryland)said the 57,000 jobs the country added in November did not come close to equaling the 150,000-person growth in the job population.    He said there are 8.7 million unemployed Americans today, and some 2 million have been jobless for more than 26 weeks, the highest percentage of long-term unemployment since 1983.   Hoyer added that after the federal program begins to be phased out, some 80,000 to 90,000 jobless workers a week will be cut off after exhausting state benefits.