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Failure to Extend Unemployment Benefits Impacts an Estimated 2.3 Million Americans

When opening the newspaper or turning on the television, New Jersey residents are likely to find reports detailing signs of the U.S. economic recovery. While the financial positions of many Americans have improved since 2008, for an estimated 2.3 million Americans impacted by long-term unemployment, times remain tough.

When opening the newspaper or turning on the television, New Jersey residents are likely to find reports detailing signs of the U.S. economic recovery. While the financial positions of many Americans have improved since 2008, for an estimated 2.3 million Americans impacted by long-term unemployment, times remain tough.

In response to the soaring unemployment rates that occurred in the wake of the Great Recession of 2007-2009, Congress took action to extend unemployment benefits to hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers impacted by long-term unemployment. However, as of January 1, Congress allowed federal unemployment benefits for this group to expire, stripping some 2.3 million unemployed U.S. workers of much-needed monthly income.

Those who supported cutting unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed argue these individuals are simply not trying hard enough to find employment. In reality, however, long-term unemployment does not discriminate and affects workers from every age bracket, race, industry and tax bracket

Demographic information related to workers who have been unemployed for six or more months proves that long-term unemployment continues to be perpetuated by the economic principle of supply and demand. Businesses that were forced to cut costs and employees simply aren't experiencing the necessary increase in demand for goods and services to warrant hiring more employees.

The U.S. Senate passed a measure earlier this month that would provide workers who have been unemployed for six or more months with another five months of benefits. Unfortunately, the Republican controlled House isn't expected to even consider the proposed bill. As a result, each day another 70,000 Americans join the ranks of the long-term unemployed and are left to figure out how to pay their bills and provide for their families without an income.

Many of these individuals have been able to rely upon savings, credit cards and the good will of family and friends to survive. However, with little hope of finding employment or having unemployment benefits reinstated, many of them will default on loans and face the prospect of losing their homes and cars.

For those struggling to find work, debt problems serve as a major distraction and stressor. Worries over debt can negatively impact an individual's ability to find employment, personal relationships and health. For many unemployed Americans, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can keep creditors at bay and eliminate debt.

Source: The New York Times, "No Spring Break for the Unemployed," April 17, 2014

Economic Policy Institute, "Long-Term Unemployment Is Elevated Across All Education, Age, Occupation, Industry, Gender, And Racial And Ethnic Groups," Heidi Shierholz, April 9, 2014

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