No extended unemployment starting today

No extended unemployment starting today (AFP Photo / Getty Images)
While more and more Americans are filing for unemployment, the benefits those applicants stand to receive are about to be drastically diminished.

Starting next week, laid-off workers across the country will no longer be able to reap in the extended unemployment benefits that the federal government has provided since 2008. While states will still offer an average of 26 weeks of assistance after termination, it looks like help will stop right there.

Those qualified for unemployment benefits have been eligible for an additional 73 weeks of assistance in some states, but now those laid-off will only be able to get state-funded help, which drops off after six months in most cases.

"There's a real potential cliff coming for unemployed people," Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project, says to the Huffington Post. She says that federal assistance is one of the “needed programs” that Congress needs to reinstate.

As of May of this year, 6.2 million Americans have been out of work for six months or longer. With the average unemployed person being unable to find work for around 40 weeks, they are looking to face over three months of making ends meet without the help of the US government.

Under the current federal benefits program, nearly 4 million people are being assisted. As long as the unemployment rate has been above 7.2 percent, the government has never suspended their benefits program. The current statistic for the United States is at around 9.1 percent.

"Quite frankly, this will be nothing short of a disaster – for those workers and their families, and for local economies across the country," adds Conti. "It's not too early for Congress to hold good-faith and open-minded negotiations about how to keep these federal programs up and running until the economy recovers enough, and creates enough jobs, that the programs are no longer needed."

Federal unemployment assistance is usually funded through a 35-year-old “temporary” unemployment tax, which typically costs private employers around $14 per year, per worker. President George W Bush proposed extending the tax in his 2009 budget, and President Obama was hoping to make the tax permanent in his 2012 budget. Both presidents had argued that the tax was necessary to help sustain federal unemployment trust funds, but other lawmakers are championing the repeal.

“The death of any tax on jobs, no matter how big or small, is a historic moment and one to be celebrated,’’ says Rep Dave Camp (R-MI) to the Associated Press. “The fact that it has taken 35 years for this ‘temporary’ tax to expire clearly illustrates the dangers of higher taxes – once in place, they are unlikely to ever go away.’’

While Obama is urging Congress to raise taxes on businesses, some of the biggest employers in the country are looking to reap in the benefits while millions of Americans will be left in the dark. By ditching the tax, Wal-Mart is looking to save around $20 million a year.