Among the people most immediately affected by the fiscal cliff cliffhanger are those who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, and stand to lose unemployment benefits after this week — maybe.
They should keep applying online for their checks, the state Department of Labor said, this week and into the new year until the new rules are clear.
There are 43,000 jobless Connecticut residents receiving benefits who would lose those payments immediately unless President Obama and Congress reach an agreement. We’d have thought the restoration of the so-called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program would have been the first to be saved, along with the cut in payroll taxes enacted during the recession.
But no. As the dysfunctional U.S. House prepares to come back into session Sunday night, through the New Year if necessary, everything remains on the table.
The 43,000 threatened Connecticut residents are in addition to about 50,000 who are receiving benefits under the state program that covers the first 26 weeks, the department said. That group, of course, would lose benefits after 26 weeks unless the program is extended.
Those threatened include thousands whose benefits had tapped out in the spring, when the benefits fell to 63 weeks because the unemployment rate fell, but who became eligible again this fall when the rate rose back up to 9 percent, pushing the eligibility up to 73 weeks.
“These federal benefits are providing a lifeline to many of our residents who are trying to make ends meet while looking for work,” state Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer said in a written release.
It will be easier for the state to respond if everyone continues to file as if they were eligible, Palmer said.
It’s disheartening to have to go through the motions for a government program that may or may not exist, just as it’s absurd to ask companies to plan their spending in 2013 without knowing the rules.
Connecticut’s unemployed people were able to receive up to 99 weeks of coverage at the peak of the crisis, until early this year, through a combination of state and federal programs.
The department said it’s keeping affected people informed by mail and is urging all people seeking work to contact a CTWorks Career Center by searching online or by calling 2-1-1.
In this and other areas, Connecticut could be especially vulnerable because the U.S. economy is showing improvement and the state situation is not. It’s possible that extended unemployment benefits could be curtailed on economic grounds even though it’s still needed in places such as here.
Likewise, Connecticut’s stalled recovery could be set back further if mortgage rates and business interest rates start to climb, reflecting a national recovery that we are not seeing.