WASHINGTON — More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm election year.
It is true that more than one million Americans were facing a cutoff of extended federal unemployment benefits at the end of December 2013. These benefits were initially implemented in 2008 in response to the financial crisis and allowed unemployed individuals to receive additional weeks of benefits beyond the typical 26-week limit provided by states. The program was extended several times in the following years, but it ultimately expired on December 28, 2013, after Congress failed to agree on a new extension. The cutoff of benefits was expected to have significant implications for the individuals affected, as well as for the broader economy.
Without the additional support provided by the program, many people would struggle to make ends meet and could be forced to cut back on spending, potentially slowing down the pace of economic recovery. The expiration of the program was indeed a contentious issue in Congress, with Democrats and Republicans divided over whether and how to extend the benefits. A new extension was eventually passed in March 2014, retroactive to the end of 2013, but the episode highlighted the challenges of providing support to the unemployed during periods of economic hardship.