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Rob Horowitz: Restore Unemployment Benefits to Long-Term Unemployed

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

 

Cutting benefits to the long-term unemployed would mean cutting recovery just as it gains momentum.

This week Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and his Republican co-sponsor Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) push forward their proposal to restore and extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program for a three month period. Their legislation provides a critical lifeline to the 1.3 million Americans whose benefits were abruptly cut off right after Christmas when Republicans in both Houses blocked votes on the measure and allowed the program to expire as well as creates the breathing room to negotiate a bi-partisan agreement for a longer term extension.

Senator Reed, in an e-mail sent out to constituents and donors this weekend, said, “These 1.3 million Americans want to get back to work. These are our friends, our families, and our neighbors. All they need is a helping hand through these tough times.” Echoing Reed’s comments in his weekly radio address, President Obama remarked, “We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough—we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.”

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program is now completely funded by the federal government and provides extended unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed—those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more—whose original benefits have run out. Congress typically makes this type of emergency funding available during periods of high unemployment. The current iteration of this program was launched at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008.

Time to act

While the economy is improving and long-term unemployment is beginning to decline, it is premature to pull the plug. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are still nearly 3 unemployed workers for every job opening, reports The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. Further, the nation's long-term unemployment rate remains as high as it's been at any point since World War II. It is now about twice as high as the long-term unemployment rate was at the times emergency unemployment benefits were cut off in the last three recessions, according to Chad Stone, Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Cutting off these benefits is also a drag on the economy. Economists estimate that we are losing up to $1 billion a week. This money is spent immediately and has a significant multiplier effect.

Congress must act quickly to adopt Senator Reed’s legislation and provide individuals and families who are truly on the edge essential support The next step is negotiating a bi-partisan compromise to provide the approximately $25 billion to extend emergency unemployment benefits for all of 2014. In order to attract sufficient Republican votes, this will likely require identifying down-the-road offsetting budget savings so our long-term debt is not increased. This is a doable task—one critical to keeping the many people still being hurt by the lingering effects of the Great Recession afloat.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: 7 Questions Worcester Mayor Petty Will Need To Answer

The following are seven big questions facing Worcester Mayor Petty in his secon term in office.  

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1) City Manager's Position May Be Vacant

 
Michael O'Brien may leave to take a position in the private sector. O'Brien has been the proverbial glue that has held City Hall together.  O'Brien is a competent fiscal manager and keeps the peace among the City Council.
 
Top-level government pros are NOT likely to line up for the Worcester job. Petty will be on the hot seat to find  talent in the post-O'Brien era.
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2) Economic Development Mixed Reviews

The recent series in the Boston Globe and the overview in GoLocal outlined the lack of success Worcester has had in creating a comprehensive economic development plan.  The results of the new construction has created some hope, but there lacks a comprehensive vision and the building seems to be developed in a vacuum.  Mayor Petty seems to be extraneous except for the ribbon cutting ceremonies. 
 
The biggest embarrassment was his lack of input into the casino process. Petty had no public opinion on the projects proposed in Worcester or the projects in adjacent towns.
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3) New Council

The new City Council will have its own personality, while the old council failed to debate or discuss - and too often voted in block.

A number of the council members just elected have promised to be more proactive. This could be a challenge for Petty -- or an opportunity to drive proactive change leveraging new ideas and new energy.

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4) Telegram Closing?

 
Since John Henry purchased both the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram, there have been a series of indications that Henry has a strong desire to invest in the Globe and has not said a public word or even visited the Telegram. Media experts have prophesied that the Telegram could be rolled into the Globe - a Globe West edition.
 
This would leave New England's second largest city  without a daily newspaper. What has been deafening is Petty's lack of leadership on this issue.  Can you imagine Tom Menino or Buddy Cianci waiting for a decision to be made on Morrissey Boulevard?
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5) Lack of Diversity in Worcester's Government 

 
As GoLocal previously reported, more than 40 percent of Worcester's population is a minority, but you would not know it by who gets the city jobs. Worcester has more than 1,600 full- and part-time city employees and well over 80 percent of them are white.
 
In almost every department, the number of white workers far outnumbers minorities; some departments are as much as 98 percent white. It is a startling disparity in a city known for its diversity. There has been no concerted public effort to change this by Petty.
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6) Republican Governor Factor

Worcester may not be as wired to the Patrick Administration since Lt. Governor Murray resigned and returned to Worcester, but the Democratic Mayor can get his phone calls answered in the State House. 
 
The next Governor of the Commonwealth could be Charlie Baker. The Democrats are looking at a bruising primary between AG Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman, while Charlie Baker is looking like he may get a free ride through the GOP primary. Baker may not be so quick to be concerned about Joe Petty's phone calls.
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7) Legacy

Every Mayor wants to leave his or her city better than they found it -- and wanst to put a mark on the history of the City. Some Mayors focus on schools and others on major developments.
 
Mayor Petty has yet to define his priorities and the second term is the time to unveil a game plan on why he was the man for the job.
 
 

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