Just Extend the Damn Benefits

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Jason DeParle tells the story of Melody Bedico, a single mother in Seattle who worked as a clerk at an airport hotel until the hotel closed:

Though she immediately applied for unemployment insurance, Ms. Bedico got no help for two months. Multiple calls a day to the Washington state unemployment office went unanswered. Someone once put her on hold for two hours, then cut her off. (She cried.) When food ran short, Ms. Bedico limited herself to two meals a day to feed her 12-year-old daughter. She fell three months behind on her mortgage.

“My whole body really ached with stress, from my head to my toes,” she said.

Then $7,600 suddenly arrived for eight weeks of back benefits, including a $600 weekly bonus. Counting a stimulus payment, Ms. Bedico’s income, $15,500 for three months, is nearly 60 percent more than she would have earned at the hotel.

“I was so happy — I really needed that money,” she said.

Unless Congress extends it, this assistance will end in five weeks even though no one thinks employment will be anywhere close to normal by then. So how about if we just extend it and stop all the inane arguing about whether it keeps people from going back to work. The unemployment rate is 13 percent. 13 percent! That’s what’s keeping people from going back to work. Just extend the damn benefits because it’s the only thing that a decent society would do.

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