Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro warned that the state's economy will suffer because of the decision not to extend unemployment benefits in the federal budget deal reached last week.
DeLauro voted, she said, reluctantly, against the Murray-Ryan budget compromise precisely because it does nothing to help the long term unemployed. On Wednesday, she brought together some of the people who will be affected for a discussion in Middletown.
Felix Pagan told the meeting his benefits had already been reduced. "I went to go file for an extension," he said, "and they cut my benefits 60 percent. You really can't live off that. Now with this, it's just unbelievable. As of the 28th, my benefits will be fully, completely cut." That means, he said, no Christmas, and no upcoming birthday for his son.
Pagan was laid off from a car dealership, but he's going to school to get an engineering qualification. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said that if he has to drop out of school, that will be waste. "You look at the human impact," said Drew. "You look at what this does to Felix, to his wife, to his child. If Felix had these benefits, he would have no problem to finish school, to make himself more marketable, to advance himself. And as he does that, he's going to have more opportunities for his child. It goes across the board."
DeLauro said extending unemployment benefits used to be something both parties agreed on in tough economic times. "As far back as the Eisenhower administration," she said, "extending UI benefits when the unemployment rate was in the five to seven percent range was routine. It was routine. It just happened, automatically."
DeLauro said she'll continue to fight to have unemployment compensation extended in a separate measure. About 26,000 people in Connecticut will lose their benefits at the end of this month.