The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the emergency unemployment benefits are to end Saturday because Congress left town for the year without extending federal aid for the long-term unemployed.
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program began in 2008 during the recession as a supplement to state benefits, especially in places with chronically high unemployment. As the federal program is set to expire at the end of this year, President Barack Obama and other Democrats have called for another extension.
"We have never, as a country, cut off emergency unemployment benefits when we've had this degree of long-term unemployment," said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council at the White House. "It would be unprecedented, and it would be insensitive to the struggles and the needs of these families."
Last week in Alabama, the state paid 11,489 claims under the Extended Unemployment Compensation program, according to Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Labor.
The average weekly payment is about $200, less than minimum wage for a full-time worker.
The state's regular program pays beneficiaries for 26 weeks. The federal program this year provided another 28 weeks, for a total of 54 weeks. At the height of the recession, the total available was 99 weeks, but the federal program has been scaled back as the economy improves.
The two-year budget agreement that Congress approved earlier this month does not extend the federal benefits, though some Democrats want at least a three-month extension.
"I believe this is a shameful neglect that I hope we will rectify in the new year," said Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham. Sewell's district includes the Alabama counties with the most persistent unemployment.
Alabama's unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in November, but some counties have double-digit unemployment. They include Wilcox County at 13.9 percent, Bullock County at 11.9 percent, and Perry and Dallas counties at 11.1 percent
Beyond the affected 11,400 residents, another 18,800 Alabamians are expected to use up their state benefits sometime in the first six months of 2014 and would have no federal aid to move to if the program is not renewed, according to estimates from Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com.