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Congress has failed to extend federal emergency jobless benefits, harming jobless workers, businesses, and local economies in Wisconsin. The abrupt end of these benefits also harms many Wisconsin children with parents who have been out of work a long time.
Extended benefits under the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program ended abruptly at the end of December, reducing the maximum number of weeks of unemployment benefits in Wisconsin from 54 weeks to 26 weeks. Discussions about extending benefits are underway in the Senate, although it is unclear whether lawmakers can agree on whether the cost of re-authorizing extended benefits needs to be offset by cuts in other programs. Senate Republicans have also indicated they are interested in tying an extension of emergency benefits to priorities such as building the Keystone XL oil pipeline and opening energy exploration on federal land.
Children of parents who have been out of work a long time are among the people hurt by the inability of Congress to come to an agreement. In 2013, nearly 44,000 Wisconsin children had a parent who had been searching for a job for 26 weeks or longer – a number that has tripled since 2007. With the end of federal unemployment benefits, the parents of these children no longer have access to extended jobless assistance.
Growing up in a household affected by unemployment can have long-term negative impact on the wellbeing of Wisconsin children. The longer the period of unemployment, the more severe the effects are likely to be. According to the Urban Institute, potential effects for children include:
- Lower math scores;
- Poorer school performance;
- Higher risk of grade repetition;
- Lower rate of college attendance; and
- Lower earnings as an adult.
The sharp increase in the number of Wisconsin children affected by long-term in unemployment shows the need for Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits. Not every long-term unemployed parent receives unemployment benefits, but for those who do, federal unemployment benefits are a lifeline. Congress should re-authorize federal unemployment benefits before their loss does further harm to Wisconsin’s children.