Since the beginning of the recession, seven states have cut their unemployment benefits to less than 26 weeks -- the prevailing standard since the 1950s. So far, emergency federal benefits have cushioned the blow of most of these cuts, kicking in after state benefits expire. But at the end of December, those federal benefits are scheduled to disappear as well, cutting off unemployment checks to 1.3 million jobless Americans and delivering a double whammy to states that have already reduced their benefit weeks to historic lows. In addition to the 1.3 million who would lose their benefits immediately, the expiration of federal benefits would affect 3.5 million more jobless Americans by the end of 2014. That's how many unemployed workers are still expected to be job-hunting after their state benefits expire, according to the Obama administration, which is pressing to continue the emergency federal aid as part of a year-end budget deal.
Republicans controlling the House oppose a drive by Democrats to renew jobless benefits averaging less than $300 a week nationwide for the long-term unemployed, a senior GOP lawmaker said Tuesday. "I don't see much appetite on our side for continuing this extension of benefits," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. "I just don't."