by Beth Connolly on May 29, 2012
It just keeps getting worse for the long term unemployed. The New York Times reports:
“Federal benefit extensions, which supplemented state funds for payments up to 99 weeks, were intended to tide over the unemployed until the job market improved.
In February, when the program was set to expire, Congress renewed it, but also phased in a reduction of the number of weeks of extended aid and effectively made it more difficult for states to qualify for the maximum aid. Since then, the jobless in 23 states have lost up to five months’ worth of benefits.
Next month, an additional 70,000 people will lose benefits earlier than they presumed, bringing the number of people cut off prematurely this year to close to half a million, according to the National Employment Law Project. That estimate does not include people who simply exhausted the weeks of benefits they were entitled to.”
In other words, the long term unemployed are going to be cut off from their extended benefits, regardless of whether they have found a new position. Those in favor of the legislation argue that they are saving the government money, while those against it fear that ceasing the benefits will cause a “fiscal cliff” and induce another recession next year. Meanwhile, the long term unemployed continue to struggle with the discrimination against them in the workplace.
Additionally, Florida, with a jobless rate of 8.7 percent, higher than the national average, has modified its unemployment benefit application process to essentially exclude those with limited internet access or English language skills. Last August, the state began accepting unemployment benefits applications only online, rather than by phone, and implementing a 45-minute skills assessment test to screen applicants. The state now rejects over 50% of applicants–and that number is exclusive of those who are not able to apply because of lack of internet access. The state is saving itself a lot of money by denying benefits to those who need and deserve them, while adding layers of baggage and bureaucracy to the process.
The extent of the effects of the legislation on the American economy and the long term unemployed remain to be seen. Please let us know if you will be affected by these changes.
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