UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 24, 2009

JOBLESS CHECKS DELAYED AS STATES STRUGGLE FOR CASH

NY Times - Years of state and federal neglect have hobbled the nation's unemployment system just as a brutal recession has doubled the number of jobless Americans seeking aid.

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America's array of government aid - including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare - is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

In a program that values timeliness above all else, decisions involving more than a million applicants have been slowed, and hundreds of thousands of needy people have waited months for checks.

And with benefit funds at dangerous lows even before the recession began, states are taking on billions in debt, increasing the pressure to raise taxes or cut aid, just as either would inflict maximum pain.

Sixteen states, with exhausted funds, are now paying benefits with borrowed cash, and their number could double by the year’s end.

Call centers and Web sites have been overwhelmed, leaving frustrated workers sometimes fighting for days to file an application.

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