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Federal Sequester Slashes Unemployment Checks


Politics just got a whole lot more real for anyone relying on federal jobless benefits. The much-threatened and finally-enacted sequester, an $85 billion slash-and-burn federal budget cut, started trickling down to the everyman these past two months. It translated to, among other things, some folks getting a smaller unemployment check and others being cut off entirely.

The long-term unemployed are the ones who bear the brunt of this cut, since the federal Emergency Employment Compensation (EEC) program was forced to shrink its payouts by 10.7 percent in at least 21 states and Washington D.C.

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New Hampshire residents who just signed up for emergency jobless benefits, payable to those without work for at least 26 weeks, now get 17 percent less on their checks. Utah cut benefits by 12.8 percent to cope. Rhode Island implemented a 12.2 percent cutback. All went into effect last month.

That’s only to name a few states. And to think it was all so avoidable, and still remains fixable, too. After all, Congress restored funding to the Federal Aviation Administration post-sequester to get staffing levels back up. The jobless, though, meh. They don’t exactly top our lawmakers’ priorities list.

“This could be averted if Congress restored full funding for the emergency unemployment benefits program,” Mother Jones notes. “But don’t expect Congress to act fast this time—people on emergency unemployment assistance generally don’t fly business class.”

People who need help most have been hit the hardest, as evidenced by the sequester’s impact on long-term jobless benefits, but also its impact on things like early childhood care. It’s the poorest, youngest and most desperate for public assistance–the ones with the smallest political voice–who suffer, says

Yeah, we saw better-than-anticipated job gains in April. But shrunken unemployment benefits means weaker spending power pull our economy in the opposite, detrimental direction.

“Anyone in Congress who cares about keeping our economy moving in a positive direction should make repeal of the sequester sledgehammer an immediate priority,” Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project said last week in a statement. “For the good of all the American people – not just a few -–Congress must repeal the sequester when it returns next week.”

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(Photo credit: Andril Kondiuk/Shuttershock) 

Jennifer Wadsworth
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