The U.S. Senate is making gradual progress toward an extension of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program that expired Dec. 28, while 1.3 million unemployed Americans go on without that source of income.
Roughly 19,000 Missourians have received their final long-term unemployment compensation checks, said Tom Bastian of the Missouri Department of Labor, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates a total of 84,500 Missourians could be without access to long-term jobless benefits by December 2014 without an EUC extension.
The EUC program, started in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration, offered extended federal unemployment benefits for those who met certain requirements after exhausting available state unemployment claims. During the program, unemployed Missourians could gain access to up to 28.6 additional weeks of compensation after reaching the maximum of 20 weeks on the state's program.
EUC eligibility requirements included registering for employment services with the state agency within the state you reside; seeking work that matches your skills, abilities and location; keeping a written record of your work search and providing it upon request; and potentially reporting to a career center for a reemployment and eligibility assessment, according to the Missouri Department of Labor website.
Missouri's unemployment rate has improved somewhat over recent years. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a rate of 6.1 percent in the state for November 2013, down from its recession peak of 9.6 percent midway through 2009. Missouri's rate is slightly lower than the national rate of 7 percent in November 2013, improved from 10 percent at the recession's height in October 2010.
Unemployment rates in Lake Area counties are similar, with rates of 7.2 percent in Morgan County, 7.1 percent in Miller County and 7.3 percent in Camden County in November 2013, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. That's 634, 831 and 1,393 people unemployed in each county, respectively, or around 6 percent across the three counties.
Those who recently lost EUC benefits are more concerned with long-term unemployment. The average length of time spent unemployed across the United States was 37.2 weeks as of November 2013, with more than 4 million people unemployed for at least 27 weeks nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It is unclear whether Congress will pass a bill extending EUC benefits. The U.S. Senate agreed last Tuesday to move forward with a 90-day extension of the program with a $6.4 billion national price tag, but the bill still has to formally pass the Senate before facing the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, who are largely opposed to the extension.
The first step for Missourians who have lost unemployment benefits should be to consult a Missouri Career Center, Bastian said. The nearest career center for most Lake Area residents is in Linn Creek, with other nearby centers in Lebanon and Jefferson City.
"Whether a person is affected by the end of the federal EUC program or is looking for employment, Missouri Career Centers offer numerous reemployment services to help job seekers add skills or gain experience," he said. "With over 23,000 jobs posted, jobs.mo.gov is Missouri's largest job listing site."