PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More than one million unemployed Americans lost their benefits Saturday as the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired.
Hundreds of thousands more are expected to be affected over the next few months.
There is fear from those who’ve seen the crippling effects of losing unemployment benefits.
Georgeanne Koehler, of Bloomfield, says she was crushed when she learned 1.3 million people would be out of luck.
“This is just going to hurt people, and you don’t have to experience it to know the pain it’s going to cause,” said Koehler. “I saw the pain in my own family, and it’s tough times for people.”
Extended unemployment benefits, which are anything more than 26 weeks, began in 2008 under the Bush Administration to ease financial strain during the recession.
It’s been renewed 11 times, but this time a gridlocked Congress didn’t pass an extension in the budget deal.
This week on KD-PG Sunday Edition, U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy weighed in on the debate.
“The concern has to continue to be, where are the jobs and whether the extension of unemployment benefits – or now there’s talk of let’s just raise minimum wage – it does not get to the core of the problem,” said Rep. Murphy.
Some Republicans say now is the time to end the program all together.
“When you extend benefits to 73 weeks or 99 weeks, it encourages some people to stay unemployed too long, and that makes it increasingly hard for them to get back into the workforce,” said Chris Edwards, of the CATO Institute.
But Koehler says it’s statements like that that make an already difficult situation degrading.
“They have to stop looking at us, especially the unemployed and the working poor, as lazy people. We just aren’t getting the opportunities,” said Koehler.