By Doug Wingeier • Columnist
Debate is picking up these days on help for the unemployed and low-wage workers. Congress is balking on extending unemployment compensation. The media and public are going back and forth on raising the minimum wage. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida are demanding (and often getting) a penny more per pound for the tomatoes they pick. And fast food and big box employees are taking matters into their own hands by going out on strike to demand better wages and working conditions.
The emergency unemployment insurance program for the long-term unemployed expired on Dec. 28, leaving 1.5 million unfortunate folk in the lurch. Since it was implemented in 2008, more than 24 million Americans have received these benefits, which have helped them to pay rent, feed their children, and keep the lights on. In addition to the 1.3 million who stopped receiving benefits last month, if the program isn’t extended, an additional 3.6 million will lose access to this vital lifeline by the end of 2014. This program doesn’t just help the long-term unemployed. Failing to extend it would also be a huge drain on the economy, eliminating an estimated additional 240,000 jobs.