By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The termination of federal unemployment benefits last month halted payments to 3,086 Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino county residents totaling about $936,000 in the first week, according to state figures.
Statewide, the cutoff affected 213,793 long-term unemployed people, who lost an average weekly benefit of $303, the state Employment Development Department said.
That adds up to a loss of nearly $65 million for the California economy in the first week since the cutoff on Dec. 28, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said Thursday.
An additional 12,531 Californians will lose jobless benefits each week during the first half of 2014 if no action is taken to restore the benefits, Thompson said in a press release, citing U.S. Department of Labor data.
People who receive unemployment insurance payments spend the money on rent, groceries and utilities, supporting local jobs and businesses, Thompson said.
The benefits are “an important economic lifeline” for families, as well as a “strong economic stimulant” for the nation, he said.
In Sonoma County, 2,236 people lost benefits that totaled about $677,500. In Mendocino County, 396 people lost benefits of $120,000, while 454 people in Lake County lost about $138,000 in the first week.
Napa County sustained a loss of about $180,000 to 598 people, according to the state figures.
Nationwide, the cutoff left 1.3 million jobless people without benefits totaling nearly $400 million, with an additional 72,000 people set to lose benefits each week during the first half of the year.
The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008 and has been reauthorized several times as the economy recovers from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Thompson said.
There are more than 1 million fewer jobs than there were before the recession began, and more than 4 million people have been out of work for six months or longer, he said.
Thompson and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, are co-sponsors of a bill, H.R. 3546, that would extend emergency unemployment insurance for one year.
Huffman and 48 other freshman House Democrats on Thursday urged House Speaker John Boehner to schedule an immediate, up-or-down vote to extend the jobless benefits.
“Congress — and our economy — cannot afford to sit idle as so many Americans desperately wait for us to act,” the Democrats said in a letter to Boehner.
An aide to Thompson said the jobless benefits issue was currently before the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that Democrats had proposed a revival of unemployment benefits until mid-November, paying the $18 billion cost with new spending cuts, Reuters reported.
“The package does what the Republicans wanted,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)