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The jobless benefits quandary

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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While an agreement on the budget was reached in Washington, D.C., one thing Republicans and Democrats could not agree on was whether to extend long-term unemployment benefits for the jobless. Those who have used up their 26 weeks of state benefits and were getting extended benefits through federal funds saw those checks stop on Saturday.

Good or bad? We've heard a lot from politicians saying they will do something about this when Congress reconvenes after New Year's. They say that it's taking money out of the economy. But is it really?

Unemployment benefits are funded by employers. That's right, even small businesses pay unemployment taxes to their state and federal governments. So if those taxes go up, expenses have to be cut somewhere else. Seems like a Catch-22 for sure.

Also, studies show that the longer someone is unemployed, the more likely they are to stay that way. Perhaps knowing they only have six months will inspire one to consider a job that perhaps they otherwise wouldn't have.

As an employer, the Journal Opinion has had people turn down open positions because they were getting more in unemployment benefits than they would have earned through work. Understandable to a point, but the job remains while those extended unemployment benefits have ended.

We know that for a lot of people who were out of work when their employer downsized that it may mean starting over from the beginning. The extended federal unemployment benefits were instituted during the depths of the economic downturn and were necessary at the time:

Are they still? Probably not. While some in Congress will lobby to restore those benfits in January, they rather should focus on what is a livable wage and raising that standard. There's no better way to encourage the unemployed to seek new jobs.

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Original Publication Date: January 1, 2014

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