MEDINA — An estimated 1.3 million Americans and 646 Medina County residents could be affected when a federal program meant to extend unemployment benefits to those still searching for a job expires today.
According to the Ohio department of Job and Family Services, about 646 Medina County residents will exhaust their unemployment benefits when the federal program ends today.
State spokesman Ben Johnson said that number includes some people who have already collected 63 weeks of coverage — the maximum currently allowed between state and federal unemployment coverage.
“Even if Congress votes to extend the program, there are still going to be some people included in that number who exhausted their benefits in December,” Johnson explained. He said that number is probably a minority of the total. For example, he said there are estimated 52,000 Ohioans statewide who will see unemployment benefits expiring today as a result of Congress’ failure to extend the program. He said about 10,000 or 11,000 of those Ohioans would have exhausted their benefits even with the program’s extension.
Unemployment coverage in Ohio starts with 26 weeks of state-covered unemployment benefits, which is paid through employer taxes and state and federal funding. In 2008, the entirely federally funded Emergency
Unemployment Compensation program was created to help ease long-term unemployment. That program provided an additional 37 weeks of unemployment coverage from the federal government for a total of up to 63 weeks of compensation.
The program expires today, and without it, anyone who has already collected the 26 weeks of coverage provided by the state of Ohio can no longer collect federal funds.
According to numbers released by the state, 242 Medina County residents filed a new unemployment claim last week, and 1,376 residents filed to continue their unemployment claim.
The state Department of Job and Family Services said they don’t know what to expect from federal lawmakers, and encouraged applicants to file for their weekly benefits.
“In that event, if the program is extended, we can distribute benefits more quickly,” the agency’s web site states.
On Friday, while vacationing in Hawaii, President Barack Obama pledged to push Congress to move quickly next year to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said.
The expiration of the benefits today affects about 1 million Americans, and the Obama administration said the payments have helped entire families survive while one or two parents search for work.
According to Obama’s administration, the federal unemployment payments have kept 11.4 million people out of
poverty and benefited almost 17 million children. Restoring up to 47 extra weeks of benefits through 2014 would cost $19 billion, according to the Congressional Budget office.
House Democrats led by Reps. Sander Levin of Michigan and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland sought to include an extension through March by offsetting the costs with potential farm bill savings. They were unsuccessful.
Senate Democrats and some Republicans plan another push in 2014. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., have introduced a bill offering a similar three-month extension, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised to bring it up.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, spoke with Obama about an extension earlier this month. Boehner and said his caucus would consider the possibility “as long as it’s paid for and as long as there are other efforts that will help get our economy moving once again.” He said White House has yet to introduce a plan that meets his standards.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.