Senate Action Spells Relief for 200,000 Unemployed New Yorkers
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
NEW YORK - Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will breathe a little easier as 60 U.S. Senators took a cue from President Obama and, on Tuesday, broke a Republican filibuster against extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.
James Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute calls it "shocking" that the Senate took six weeks to take action to help the crowded ranks of the long-term unemployed. The vote to extend benefits will give an estimated 200,000 New York residents a chance to make ends meet while they look for work, says Parrott.
"For some people, it may mean that they're able to stay in their homes and not lose them to foreclosure. It also has a ripple effect - unemployment spending goes immediately into the economy."
Parrot points out that one-half of New York's unemployed have been without a job for six months or longer. They are getting limited help, he adds, because unemployment benefits in New York are lower than surrounding states.
"There has been no action to increase the maximum benefit for ten years in New York State; that's a legislative oversight every bit as bad as what's gone on in the Senate."
In Congress, many Republican Senators oppose borrowing $34 billion to pay for the extended benefits, but Parrot says that amount is a drop in the bucket compared to tax cuts for the rich, which many of the same Senators support.
"At the same time, they want to extend substantial tax cuts for wealthy people, knowing that's going to add to the deficit; and they're not willing to say that we have to pay for those tax cuts, in any way."
Other Republicans said they oppose extending long-term benefits because doing so discourages job hunting. Now, Parrott believes they'll have a hard time explaining their votes to 15 million unemployed Americans, one-quarter of whom have been without jobs for more than a year. A final Senate vote on the bill is expected this week.
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