EDITORIAL: Rough start to the new year for unemployed

FresnoDecember 30, 2013 

Unemployment benefits for 213,793 Californians expired on Saturday, and 325,800 stand to lose their benefits in the first half of 2014, unless they find work or Congress acts upon its return to Washington, D.C.


The new year isn't starting well for 213,793 Californians. Their unemployment benefits expired on Saturday, owing to inaction by House Republicans.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released a state-by-state count of workers who lost their benefits. California is one of the hardest-hit.

In addition to the 213,793 Californians whose jobless benefits ended over the weekend, 325,800 others stand to lose their benefits in the first half of 2014, unless they find work or Congress acts upon its return to Washington, D.C.

California's unemployment rate of 8.3% remains above the national average.

Parts of the Valley are far above the average. Consider these numbers:

In Tulare County, unemployment is 12.9% and 3,256 people lost their benefits. In Fresno County, 12.6% of the work force is out of work and 7,108 people lost benefits. In Merced County, unemployment is 13.6% and 1,939 lost benefits. Stanislaus County: 12.1% unemployment and 3,749 lost benefits. San Joaquin County: 12.2% unemployment and 4,942 lost benefits.

For perspective, the average unemployment check is $1,166 per month. Multiply that by 7,108 Fresno County people who won't get checks in January. That's about $7.3 million per month. The cut will hurt individuals. It also will hurt people selling gasoline and food.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, Elk Grove, has said that extending unemployment "hurts the unemployed" because it "reduces the incentive they have to get into the work force."

Unemployed workers aren't getting checks, but they still have a vote — a point made by Steven Swanson of Madera Ranchos in an interview with The Bee's Tim Sheehan for a story on Saturday.

Swanson, 57, had worked for 33 years in wholesale before losing his job in 2011. He estimates that he has submitted more than 500 résumés and filled out more than 200 job applications without landing a new position.

Swanson clearly wants to work, but in today's tough job market — with about three workers for every available job across the United States — the reality is that many employers won't even consider applicants who have been out of work for a year or more.

McClintock and other Republicans "just don't get it," said Swanson, a lifelong Republican who left the party after GOP leaders blocked efforts to extend benefits.

Swanson is right. The GOP doesn't grasp reality — only class-war talking points.


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