If there's one thing I know about being poor, it's the cascading effect that even a week without cash flow can trigger. Late charges, reinstatement fees, bounced checks... it gets to the point where you're really behind the eight-ball. That's why it's always infuriated me that the people in charge are always so oblivious to the consequences of their indifference. I mean, how can they not know how many people are hurting?
Even as Congress debates whether to extend emergency unemployment checks for more than 6 million Americans who are approaching the 99-week-limit, some four million others are facing the certain end of their benefits over the next year, unless an entirely new program is crafted.
This is the sobering conclusion of a report released by the President's Council of Economic Advisers on Thursday. The study forecast that the exhaustion of unemployment benefits for so many will curb spending power enough to significantly impede an already weak economic recovery.
The typical household now receiving emergency unemployment benefits would see their income fall by a third should they lose their checks, according to the report. Among the roughly 40 percent of households in which the person receiving a check is the sole breadwinner, income would fall by 90 percent.
The existing emergency unemployment program, which extends benefits for nearly two years, expired on Wednesday. Without an agreement to extend the program, the economy will lose about 600,000 jobs, as the spending enabled by continued unemployment checks ceases. National economic output--which expanded at an annual pace of 2.5 percent during the summer months--would fall off by 0.6 percent.
That disturbing prospect does not even account for the roughly four million people who would exceed even the extended limits in the emergency program. Were that many jobless people left to fend themselves without unemployment checks, that would pose significant risks for the broader economy, say economists. They cite the fact that consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of all economic activity.