N.H. Residents to Lose Jobless Benefits

Concord — About 1,100 New Hampshire residents are about to lose their unemployment benefits today, as a federal extension of the program for people without work ends, part of the compromise budget deal reached in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

The program brought about $1.3 million to the state in September, according to Annette Nielsen, an economist with the Economic and Labor Market Information bureau of New Hampshire Employment Security. More recent figures are not available, she said.

The long-term benefit, which is fully federally funded, kicks in after a state program that helps people for 26 weeks. That benefit will still be available for newly unemployed people, but they will not be able to extend their benefit for 14 weeks, as they were before, and people currently receiving the benefit will not receive any more assistance.

Not everyone who is unemployed claims an unemployment assistance, but of those in New Hampshire who do, about 1 in 6 received the extended benefit, Nielsen said.

About a third of unemployment recipients in the nation are on extended benefits, she said.

“The feeling is that in New Hampshire the change will not have a whole lot of effect” on the state economy, she said. “But it’s tough for the person that’s on it. It’s a Band-Aid. It played an important role when unemployment was at the height and we have a large group that have been unemployed for more than a year.”

The average weekly assistance for the extended benefit program is about $258, Nielsen said.

“In the grand scheme, it’s maybe not a lot, but for those people it’s maybe a life line for a period of time,” she said.

The change was part of the federal budget deal that cut some programs while alleviating cuts elsewhere. The deal as passed includes $6 billion in cuts to benefits for retired military personnel, which is why New Hampshire’s sole Republican in Congress says she voted against it.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte was one of 36 senators, all Republicans, who voted against the deal.

Speaking on CNN after the vote, she said the budget unfairly singles out military retirees, and the funding for their benefits could have been found if budget negotiators had looked.

“This is wrong in terms of the priorities of the nation,” she said.

New Hampshire’s three Congressional Democrats supported the budget, and said after the vote they did so as it was the best of bad options.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said she supports the budget “because it provides certainty for businesses and the economy, replaces some of the reckless, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, and ensures we won’t have another government shutdown.”

Ending the extended unemployment benefits “will hurt people who lost their job through no fault of their own and will cost our economy 200,000 jobs (but) the fact is that this a step forward in addressing sequestration in a way that is absolutely critical to anybody who does business with the federal government or with companies and families who are dependent on services and on contracts with the federal government,” she said.

Rep. Annie Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat, said the budget is “far from perfect, but it’s a modest first step that will help move us beyond the cycle of manufactured crises and short-term decision-making that has put a drag on our economy and hurt middle class families.

“This agreement would reverse some of the indiscriminate budget cuts that have hurt New Hampshire families and small businesses, while helping prevent another government shutdown that costs jobs and damages our economy. With that said, I am gravely disappointed that this agreement does not include an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, and I will keep pushing for a vote on legislation to protect this vital economic lifeline for Granite Staters who are looking for work,” Kuster said.

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, from the 1st district, said, “The people of New Hampshire sent me here to make hard compromises, and this was one of them...”

“This budget deal wasn’t what I wanted, but as the Wall Street Journal said, it is ‘the least bad budget deal’. It will reduce the irresponsible cuts to programs that help seniors, children, and families in New Hampshire, and it will alleviate some of the pain sequestration is causing ...”