Emergency Unemployment Funds, which go to people who’ve been receiving unemployment benefits for more than six months, are set to expire Dec. 28.
“We estimate that 80,000 Pennsylvanians who are claiming emergency unemployment compensation benefits will lose those benefits as of the end of December this year because the federal government is not continuing that program,” said Sara Goulet, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Unemployment compensation benefits are paid by the state up to 26 weeks, after that the federal government pays for emergency unemployment compensation to eligible claimants.
“Those started in 2008 with the recession and have been renewed each year,” said Goulet, “but the most recent budget vote by Congress, they chose not to extend them. At this point, that’s the only information we have here in Pennsylvania, is that it’s not been extended. That could change, but we don’t know when.”
The state’s unemployment rate is around 7.5 percent, which is high, according to Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center. He said when it’s healthy, it’s between 4 and 4.5 percent. He said the labor market simply hasn’t fully replaced all the jobs that were lost during the recession, and it hasn’t created new jobs for people who’ve entered the labor market following the recession.
“Labor markets are weak,” said Price, “and everyone who loses a job is finding, even today, that it takes a lot longer to find a job. People do eventually find work, it just takes a lot longer. That’s why extended unemployment benefits remain very important because it sort of gives folks that lifeline they need to meet their very basic bills.”
The impact of the loss of emergency compensation benefits reaches far beyond those who stop receiving them.
“These are folks who spend money in the local economy whether they’re paying their mortgage or going to their local grocery store,” Price said. “When you see them losing benefits, they’re going to ratchet back their spending and local businesses are going to feel that impact. It’s really a bad thing for the economy at large.”
The last week emergency unemployment compensation payments will be made is the week ending Dec. 28. An extension was not included in a budget deal being debated in the U.S. Senate. The Labor and Industry website states, “If Congress extends the EUC program, the department will notify affected individuals. Please do not call the service center to inquire about an EUC extension, as no additional information is available at this time.”