Rep. Mike Thompson decries cut to federal unemployment benefits

  • U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson speaks to a crowd during a gun control rally at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, California on Thursday, September 5, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ 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.

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