Guest editorials…The controversy over a handshake

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Congress needs to act on jobless benefits

On the whole, the federal budget deal is expected to be positive for the economy.

The two-year bipartisan budget deal avoids the threat of future government shutdowns, like the one that took place in October, until 2015.

The agreement also protects Social Security and Medicare health care coverage for millions of Americans.

Economists said the additional spending from repealing some of the spending cuts should help economic growth. But some of the gains could be offset by the end of emergency unemployment benefits Dec. 28. There is no longer any phase out for the program, so that every individual now receiving these benefits will lose them during the same week.

The federal program has extended benefits to 1.3 million people who’ve been out of work longer than six months. The program’s expiration could hurt because the beneficiaries will have less money to spend on food, housing, clothes and transportation.

On Dec. 16, Sen. Robert Casey and Unemployment Project director John Dodds called a press conference to make a plea to lawmakers to vote on and pass an extension of unemployment benefits that will help boost the economy and aid those looking for work.

“Extending unemployment insurance will help those looking for work and produce growth in the economy,” said Casey. The pace of job growth has increased in the last few months but there are still far too many Pennsylvanians looking for work. Extending unemployment insurance will help those actively seeking work and provide a jolt to gross domestic product as we move into the next year.

Some conservative lawmakers have expressed opposition to extending unemployment insurance actually arguing that it would be more be more detrimental to the unemployed in the future.

Republicans have opposed extending the program, noting that unemployment has fallen steadily in the past year, and arguing that weekly unemployment checks are a poor economic stimulus. Some conservative lawmakers have actually argued that extending unemployment insurance would be more be more detrimental to the unemployed in the future.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a recent television interview that an extension of the federal program would be “a disservice to these workers.”

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Paul said, “When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.”

But the facts are that the real disservice is essentially cutting them off on Dec. 28. These are mostly American looking for a job. Many were laid off through no fault of their own.

Additionally, Congressional Research Service statistics put the maximum duration for benefits at 73 weeks, not the 99 that was the case a year ago.

Democrats undermined their own political case for an extension last week when the party backed off an initial threat to oppose any budget deal that didn’t provide for one.

Congress should act immediately on extending unemployment insurance.

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