Unless Congress Acts, 3.2 Million Will Lose Unemployment Benefits in Early 2010

Obama announced a $210 billion job creation plan today -- and it's a well-timed announcement what with a new study detailing just how many millions of Americans will be losing their unemployment checks in the first quarter of 2010.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a report yesterday that gets down to the very nitty-gritty of our country's unemployment woes. The study estimates that in January, one million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits -- and by the end of March, a total of 3.2 million workers will lose that very essential lifeline.

And what a lifeline it has been for many of those hardest hit by the recession! The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed into law in February, extends federal unemployment benefits to laid-off workers by a considerable amount, from the average of 26 weeks to 73 weeks. It also includes a weekly $25 benefit payment and a 65 percent COBRA insurance subsidy.

Experts generally agree that the unemployment rate -- currently at 10 percent -- hasn't hit rock bottom yet, even though there was a bit of a bounce in November. In fact, we may not reach that pinnacle of misfortune until spring or even summer next year. But no matter whether we have already reached that low point or are yet to, we can certainly expect that the unemployment rate will remain in the double-digits throughout 2010.

And remember -- the official unemployment rate only includes people "actively" looking for work, which means the number leaves out everyone who's given up and all those who are underemployed.

So with at least 10 percent of Americans -- that's 30 million people -- unemployed, is Congress going to make a move to keep at least some of these people out of cardboard boxes?

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