Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - On the heels of cuts to food stamps comes more potentially bad news for Pennsylvanians finding it difficult to make ends meet. At the end of this month, the federal emergency unemployment compensation program will expire unless Congress passes an extension. The program kicked in during the recession, and John Dodd, director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, said many people across the state still need what it has to offer.
"That will mean that about 87,000 Pennsylvania residents who are out of work will lose their federal extension and they'll be cut back from 63 weeks of total benefits to 26 weeks on ," Dodd said.
The job market gets less and less welcoming for people looking long-term for work, he added.
"There's still three people unemployed for every job that's available," he noted, "and we have a very, very difficult job market still, in the state of Pennsylvania and all over the country."
Those who argue that extending unemployment benefits is too costly fail to recognize that not doing so weakens the economy, Dodd pointed out.
"Every time we pull more money out of people that are in the working class or the middle class, you have less purchasing power and less economic activity, which creates more unemployment," he said.
Nationwide, estimates are that 1.3 million people will lose their benefits immediately and another 850,000 workers will exhaust their benefits in March.