Speaking Out! The bad ideas tangling up extension of unemployment benefits
Congress has only until the end of the month to extend long-term unemployment benefits. While nearly everyone agrees on the importance of support for the unemployed, how to pay for it is a different story. Once again, Congress risks getting sidetracked by dangerous proposals coming at the expense of our neediest families.
One proposal would pay for some unemployment benefits by denying Child Tax Credit refunds to parents without Social Security numbers – in effect targeting immigrant workers. This legislation, introduced in the House in December, would deny immigrant parents the support that other working-class families use to help provide for their children.
The Child Tax Credit is vital to working-class families, especially in the wake of the recession. In 2009, the Child Tax Credit kept 1.3 million children out poverty. According to the Treasury Department, the average family affected by this proposal makes only around $21,000 a year efand stands to lose about $1,800. It is outrageous that Congress is rejecting out of hand any tax increase on the wealthiest while demanding such large sacrifices from working-class families.
Another proposal to restrict government aid is just as baffling. Congressional negotiators have been considering legislation that would let states deny unemployment benefits to workers without a high school diploma or GED. The effect, as our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explain, would be hundreds of thousands of working-class Americans – most of whom have been paying taxes to support unemployment benefits – losing those benefits entirely.
Needless to say, most workers without a high school diploma or GED have been getting by with low-paying jobs to begin with. A job loss for these Americans, many of them older workers who wouldn’t benefit much from a high school diploma anyway, is devastating. Since they often have less in savings and must search for a job longer, they are some of the American most in need of unemployment benefits.
Cutting away this crucial safety net for these workers who have seen the job market change from under them and naively expecting them all to join high-school equivalency programs is a terrible entanglement to what should be the straightforward extension of unemployment benefits that everyone agrees is necessary. This legislation, like the targeting of immigrants, perversely gives needy families the aid they need only by gutting aid for other struggling families.