Jobless benefits need to be reinstated

It was disappointing to see Congress adjourn for the holidays without taking action to help make the season brighter for many Americans who are unemployed.

The inability of Congress to reach an agreement to extend unemployment benefits for more than a million U.S. citizens, including 1,400 in the Upper Peninsula, certainly came at an unfortunate time.

Not only are jobless residents of the region searching for a job, but the added stress of making the holidays more joyful for their families was compounded by losing their unemployment benefits.

According to a recent report, the end of the extended federal unemployment benefits affects about 43,311 michigan residents, with the U.P.accounting for about 3 percent of that total.

Of the U.P.’s 15 counties, Marquette County had the highest number of residents impacted with 287. Keweenaw County had the fewest with nine. Alger County had 33; Baraga County, 38; Delta County, 154 and Houghton County, 161.

Another 85,500 Michigan residents are expected to lose their coverage during the first six months of this year.

Nationwide, about 1.3 million people lost their benefits when the federally funded unemployment payments ended Saturday.

By ending the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation,” longtime unemployed people lost their average monthly stipend of $1,166.

The cut in funds not only hurts the people on extended unemployment, but economic analysts predict the slowly rebounding U.S. economy could also suffer from a reduction in consumer spending.

When Congress reconvenes this year – a year that will be marked by mid-term elections – we hope that Michigan’s senators and representatives work hard to have the extended federal benefits reinstated.