When unemployment benefits end

The Takeaway

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Federal unemployment benefits are set to expire by the end of the year. The benefits were extended in the wake of the recession, but they have become a statistically significant driver of the nation’s economy, as the more than 14 million jobless Americans use the benefits on items like clothes and groceries.

Moody’s Analytics, which tracks economic conditions, estimates that there will be $37 billion dollars lost to the economy when the benefits expire.

Sharron Tetrault, a 20-year veteran of the non-profit sector, who has been unemployed since January of 2010 and whose unemployment benefits are set to expire in September, expresses her frustration: “When my benefits run out, I’m not going to have a way to pay my phone to get calls for jobs, I’m not going to be able to pay my rent, and it doesn’t really make me all warm and fuzzy to think I may be homeless and yet the wealthiest Americans are getting tax breaks.”

But the cost of extending unemployment benefits adds to the US’ debt ceiling, which is what lawmakers are currently more concerned about.

Mike Munger, a political science and economics professor at Duke University says the unemployment benefits program isn’t meant to be a permanent solution, and ending the extension would help with the debt ceiling. But, he says, there are a lot of other expenses that the government can cut.

Like Tetrault, Munger thinks one expense is tax breaks for the rich: “Raise taxes in a number of ways, or at least cut the loopholes that are in effect, huge expenditures that go to a relatively small number of very wealthy people.”


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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