1.3 million lost unemployment benefits Saturday, including 307 on North Olympic Peninsula

Peninsula Daily News
news services

WASHINGTON — More than 1 million Americans — including more than 300 on the North Olympic Peninsula — got a post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits came to a sudden halt, with potentially implications for the recovering U.S. economy.

A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm election year.

For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening.

Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars.

An extension of the unemployment program did not make it into the two-year budget deal that was passed just before Congress left on its winter recess.

It's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.

An estimated 1.3 million people were cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments ended Saturday.

On the Peninsula, 217 persons in Clallam County and 90 in Jefferson County lost their payments. Statewide, more than 25,000 were cut off.

Until Saturday, up to 63 weeks of jobless benefits were available in Washington state, including 26 weeks of regular benefits and 37 weeks of federally funded emergency unemployment benefits.

Now only 26 weeks of benefits are available for Washington workers who haven't already exhausted them.

Started under President George W. Bush, the benefits were designed as a cushion for the millions of U.S. citizens who lost their jobs in a recession and failed to find new ones while receiving state jobless benefits.

Gene Sperling, the director of the White House's National Economic Council, said Friday that President Barack Obama wants an extension as soon as Congress return next month, warning the abrupt cut-off will deliver a blow to the U.S. economy.

The Obama administration says those payments have kept 11.4 million people out of poverty and benefited almost 17 million children. The cost of them since 2008 has totaled $225 billion.

Last modified: December 28. 2013 6:23PM
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