Lawmakers did not include an extension of long-term unemployment benefits in the recent budget passed before breaking for the holidays, causing 1.3 million Americans, including more than 127,000 New Yorkers to be cut off. But the effects of this inaction trickle down to those who are most vulnerable.
Last week Labor Secretary Tom Perez told reporters that many of the unemployed who lost their benefits have gone from a "position of hardship" to one that is a "catastrophe."
"They have been looking day in and day out for work," Perez said. "They are trying to feed their families. They are trying to stave off foreclosure. They are making judgments between food and medicine -judgments that no person in America or anywhere should have to make."
The 700 clients served annually by Project Renewal's Next Step Employment Program arrive in need of a full spectrum of employment assistance -- including education and skills training, job placement, and retention support in the comprehensive "one stop shop" setting we provide.
Many Next Step clients have lived for years in a state of crisis similar to the current situation described by Secretary Perez. They face additional hardships to attaining jobs and a steady income stream as many struggle with poor health caused by mental illness or addictions, and according to Project Renewal Deputy Director Stephanie Cowles the recent cut in unemployment benefits will only worsen their situation.
The recent loss of unemployment benefits will clearly affect our work at Next Step. Although very few Next Step clients receive unemployment benefits, we anticipate a large number of people whose unemployment benefits were discontinued will flood the job market causing strong competition for low level jobs and negatively impacting Next Step clients chances for obtaining these jobs.