130,000 Floridians get last unemployment check as U.S. readies to cap jobless benefits
Wake up and good morning. Is the nation about to hit a wall on extending unemployment benefits? Yes, suggests a Bloomberg News story. Already, state officials indicate 130,000 out-of-work Floridians have received their last unemployment checks and are no longer eligible. In New York, that number is 57,000 and 30,000 in Ohio. Here's more detail on Florida's benefits status. (AP photo: historical unemployment lines.)
Those numbers will increase. Goldman Sachs projects that more than 400,000 may soon begin losing benefits every month. And it won't be long before the number of those who will receive their final government check is projected to top 1 million.
What's driving this? A quiet agreement among elected officials that 99 weeks is long enough to support the unemployed because of the rising fear of the federal deficit -- projected to reach $1.5 trillion (that's a T, trillion) next year. Bloomberg quotes Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (photo, right), of Montana, whose panel oversees the benefits program:
"You can’t go on forever. I think 99 weeks is sufficient."
Of course, Baucus represents Montana, a state with a March unemployment rate of 7.1 percent -- well below the national 9.7 percent average. Florida, with a population dwarfing Montana, has a 12.3 percent unemployment rate.
Unemployment aid has become one of the federal budget’s fastest-growing components, Bloomberg reports, with costs this year likely to reach $200 billion. That’s six times what was typically spent before the recession.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist