1.3 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits today, as a special federal program to support the long-term jobless expires. Anyone who has been collecting benefits for more than 26 weeks, which amounts to 1.3 million Americans immediately, will no longer be eligible for continued benefits.
The Obama administration estimates that by end of 2014, 4.9 million people will see their benefits run out. During the recession, Congress launched the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to extend jobless benefits -- at its peak, the EUC offered up to 99 weeks of coverage, but gradually scaled back since. President Obama along with Democrats had pushed for the program to continue, but the latest extension did not make it into the much-talked-about two-year budget deal passed just before Congress parted for its winter recess.
While Democrats argue the expiry will hurt the economy and the long-term unemployed, Republicans who oppose the extension say the labor market has improved enough to end the emergency measure, which would cost the federal government $25 billion in 2014.