By Arthur Delaney
Ferguson, an Iraq war vet, had been out of work 15 months when he landed employment with Pennsylvania’s workforce development system. For two years, O’Connell had been working in customer service for a heating oil company.
“Great, now we can finally save up and buy a house,” O’Connell, 28, remembered thinking at the moment they became a two-earner family. She said grown up in apartments and relished the opportunity to give her children a traditional home in this Philadelphia suburb.
Then she lost her own job. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” O’Connell said, recalling her disbelief and anger. “This is the worst timing. We were thinking we were going to be able to catch up on all these bills. It sucked.”
Unemployment insurance at least prevented them from falling further behind on the bills, but O’Connell is about to lose the weekly $270 she gets. She’s among the 1.3 million jobless workers set to lose their unemployment insurance Dec. 28 unless Congress acts, and Congress seems reluctant to act. The House of Representatives goes on vacation after this week, the Senate after next.
The benefits were left out of a budget framework crafted by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.,) the budget bosses of the Capitol’s two chambers. Despite Democratic demands, Republicans have not signaled willingness to preserve the benefits for another year, which would cost $26 billion.