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Long-term unemployed yearn for consent on benefit extension, but Congress fails to reach agreement – again


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By Lars Gesing
CU News Corps

More than 1.4 million Americans stopped receiving long-term unemployment insurance checks at the end of last year. Ever since, Congressional Democrats and Republicans fight over a three-month extension for the benefits – so far without success. Just last Thursday, Senate Democrats made a renewed push. But even the “yea” votes of four Republicans weren’t enough. With 59 votes, the coalition fell one defector short of the required 60-vote hurdle.

Congress’ latest failure to find consent – despite President Obama’s repeated calls for order – reflects disunity between Democrats and Republicans as both parties use the issue to shape their profiles with the Midterm elections looming in the not-too-distant future.

According to a report by the Colorado Fiscal Institute, nearly 18,000 jobless people here in the state were affected by the benefit cuts at the turn of the year. They, like their fellow sufferers all around the country, hope for a solution that is unlikely to present itself anytime soon.

As The New York Times and various other national and international media outlets report, politicians on both sides of the aisle weren’t able to agree on a game plan on how to come up with the money to pay for the assistance extension.

According to latest U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the nationwide number of long-term unemployed – including all those job hunters who haven’t received a paycheck for at least 27 weeks – is holding steady at around 3.6 million.

In a recent video, TIME Magazine captured some of the human fates behind the political battle over long-term unemployment benefits. Watch the video to travel to the streets of Philadelphia, and meet some members of the generation of “99ers.” These people carry that stigma since they lost their benefits because they have been without a job for more than 99 weeks. For them, their everyday life is an ongoing struggle for any human’s most basic needs.

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Many long-term unemployed fear for losing their homes. At the same time, a new study by the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, recently cited in the Denver Post, shows that even those who are lucky enough to still have a job increasingly face obstacles when it comes to finding a place to live. The Post reports: “African-Americans searching for rental housing in the metro area will encounter discrimination 67 percent of the time, while Latinos will face it 91 percent of the time.”

And even couples or individuals with children face discrimination in 73 percent of all recorded cases, according to the report’s authors. Pat Coyle, director of the Colorado Division of Housing, told the Denver Post that he was surprised by these figures: “This has not been what we’ve seen as typical of the Denver marketplace.”

You can access the full report here.

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The Democratic agenda to move toward more social equality will also have major implications for Hillary Clinton’s potential bid for nomination as the party’s presidential candidate, the Associated Press concluded in a recent online feature.

Ken Thomas writes in “The Big Story”: “Democrats say economic issues such as raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security have become paramount for anyone aiming to lead the party after years of tough economic times.”

Thomas also talked to Ilya Sheyman, executive director of the liberal public policy advocacy group MoveOn.org. Sheyman told Thomas that “we’re going to see income inequality play the same role that the war in Iraq played in 2008.”

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During his Jan. 28 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a renewed legislative effort to raise the level of minimum wages across the country.

On its website, The New York Times offers its readers an interactive tool to find out whether they could live on the lowest legal pay. Currently, more than 4.8 million Americans face that challenge every day.

In the latest Times Sunday Review, the paper’s editorial board made its case for a higher minimum wage, arguing that an estimated 27.8 million Americans would earn more money if the Democratic proposal to lift the hourly minimum limit from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 passes.

An interactive USA Today graphic shows those 13 states that raised the minimum pay on a state level on Jan. 1, 2014 – despite Congress’s ineptitude. Among them was Colorado, where workers now receive a minimum hourly rate of $8. In total, 21 states have implemented a higher minimum wage than the federal $7.25 by now.

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Explanatory Multimedia Reporting from CU Boulder Journalism Students
Long-term unemployed yearn for consent on benefit extension, but Congress fails to reach agreement – again