Commentary: An Urgent Call for Unemployment Insurance Extension

Jobless Americans, many of them Black, are hoping Congress acts in time to extend their unemployment benefits.

Posted: 12/12/2011 01:24 PM EST
unemployment, economy, budget, Barack Obama, Congress, African Americans

Throughout the economic downturn Blacks have been disproportionately hard hit, suffering greater poverty and higher joblessness than their white counterparts. And last month, while the overall unemployment rate dropped, Black unemployment actually went up slightly. Sometimes it seems as if things can’t get worse for African-Americans struggling through this recession. Unfortunately, they can.

While millions of families are heading into the holiday season, many of them are waiting on pins and needles to hear if their jobless benefits will continue into 2012. If Congress fails to extend the federal unemployment insurance program before the last day of this month, and it looks like it might, people around the country relying on those benefits will be forced to combat their unemployment without government aid. Great start to the new year, huh?

This is, as we said before, especially burdensome news for Blacks, whose unemployment rate is now up to 15.5 percent. That’s more than one out of every 10 Blacks who need unemployment benefits to pay for the basic necessities of life.

According to the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, a number of communities harshly impacted by unemployment held prayer vigils on Friday to ask for Congress’ support of the unemployed before the year is out.

If that support doesn’t arrive before 2012, it will be an especially harsh slap in the face for needy families during the holidays: A Congress that itself has total job security ignoring the financial instability of a huge number of Americans, many of whom are Black.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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