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Thousands in Wisconsin Could Lose Federal Unemployment Benefits

PHOTO: Tamarine Cornelius of the Wisconsin Budget Project says thousands of Wisconsinites will lose Federal Unemployment Benefits unless Congress acts soon. (Photo used with permission.)
PHOTO: Tamarine Cornelius of the Wisconsin Budget Project says thousands of Wisconsinites will lose Federal Unemployment Benefits unless Congress acts soon. (Photo used with permission.)
December 3, 2013

MADISON, Wis. – There could be a lump of coal in the Christmas stockings of tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.

A new analysis by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project says 24,000 Wisconsinites could lose extended federal benefits at the end of December.

"Then, over the next six months another about 42,000 Wisconsinites will exhaust their state-funded unemployment benefits and not have the federally funded unemployment benefits to move to,” says Tamarine Cornelius, who compiled the report. “So total over the next six months about 66,000 Wisconsinites will be affected."

Cornelius puts that number in perspective.

"That's about as many people as live in the city of Eau Claire,” she points out. “And for many of those people unemployment benefits are their only source of income."

Wisconsin and many other states pay unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks, but if the federal extension of 28 additional weeks in Wisconsin is allowed to end, Cornelius says a lot of people will feel the pinch.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, eliminating federal unemployment benefits would cost the national economy 310,000 jobs next year.

Cornelius says unemployment checks go right back into the economy.

"Unemployment benefits are one of the most reliable forms of boosting a sagging economy,” she explains. “That's because people who get unemployment benefits spend it right away on things like groceries and clothes and housing and other necessities."

The analysis shows Wisconsin's rural northern counties will be hardest-hit. Cornelius says it's too early to end federal unemployment benefits.

"The economy is still not in a place, job creation is still not in a place where we want to be where we can cut off federal unemployment benefits,” she maintains. “More than a third of jobless workers have been unemployed for six months or more and the average unemployed worker has been looking for a job for 36 weeks."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI