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Proposed Budget Deal Would Prevent Some Harmful Cuts – But Threatens to Leave Unemployed Workers Out in the Cold

We have a deal – sort of.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) – who have been leading a new round of budget negotiations – have announced that they reached agreement on federal government spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014 as well as FY 2015. Given Congress’s propensity toward last-minute bargains in recent years, you may be a bit surprised that the announcement from Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan came a couple of days before their self-imposed deadline of December 13, and just over a month before current FY 2014 funding runs out on January 15. But there remains a lot more work to be done to ensure that we don’t face another government shutdown in January – and to make sure low-income women and their families are protected and unemployed workers aren’t left behind.

So what does the deal do? In short:

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New Reports Weigh In On Unemployment Benefits: Program Creates Jobs, Boosts Economy

Counting down to the New Year is all about hope, celebration, and a fresh start – for most of us, anyway. This year, the clock is also ticking on federal emergency unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of December. For families relying on these benefits, which supplement state unemployment insurance programs, the New Year is a very scary prospect. Read more »

Take Action: Make the Sequester History

The sequester cuts began back in March, and they’ve been wreaking havoc on essential programs for women and families ever since. These automatic across-the-board cuts are hitting low-income women and their families the hardest.

Congress can fix this! Closing tax loopholes will raise the revenue needed to end the sequester and protect programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from the chopping block. That’s why we’re joining forces with other organizations to tell Congress to end the sequester and close corporate tax loopholes.

Together, we can make the sequester history.

Call your members of Congress on Thursday, Dec. 12, and tell them to fix the sequester.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to talk to your Senators.
  2. When you get someone on the line say:
    Hi my name is _______________ and I’m a constituent. I would like to urge Senator/Representative _________ to stand up for women and families by
    closing tax loopholes to raise the revenue needed to end the sequester and protect programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from the chopping block.
  3. Call back to talk to your other Senator and Representative!
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Ending Emergency UI Benefits when Long-Term Unemployment is this High is Unprecedented

Making history? We certainly hope not.

U.S. levels of long-term unemployment – workers who have been looking for work for more than 26 weeks – remain at historic levels. The federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) program, which supplements state unemployment benefits, is set to expire in just over a month. In the past 40 years, Congress has not allowed federal emergency UI benefits to expire when the share of jobless workers who were long-term unemployed was above 23.1 percent. Currently, 36.1 percent, or 4.1 million Americans, are still looking for work after six months of searching.

If the federal emergency unemployment insurance program is not renewed, 2 million workers will lose their benefits in late December or run out of benefits in early 2014. NWLC’s new analysis on the importance of federal emergency UI benefits for women and their families shows that this expiration – which would be damaging to struggling families and bad for the economy – would be also be unprecedented.

Federal Emergency Unemployment Benefits in Response to Recessions

There’s a lot of information packed into this chart. Here are three key takeaways: Read more »

Faces Behind the Numbers: The Human Cost of Sequester Cuts

The squeaky wheel gets oiled. Despite my parents’ insistence that patience (and appropriate volume) is a virtue, I learned early on that the person who pipes up and makes a scene gets an audience. Capitol Hill seems to have learned the same lesson.

During the ongoing budget debates, the voices we’ve heard are loud ones – powerful politicians, special interest groups, and newsmakers – who often get what they want when they want it. (You may remember that Congress speedily undid cuts to air traffic controllers when they were in a rush to fly home to their districts last spring.) The quieter voices – those with less influence and, too often, more on the line in this tough economy – have been drowned out. A new report from NDD United aims to change all that.

NDD Across America Map

The group, a coalition of organizations including NWLC, is dedicated to ending sequestration and protecting nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. These programs must be funded each year through the annual budget process. Discretionary programs are divided into two groups: defense and nondefense. NDD programs really are the “everything else” category of spending, and they critically affect Americans’ daily lives. NDD programs cover food safety, clean water, public transit, education, health, security… The list goes on and on. Read more »

What You Need to Know About the Budget Deal

Late Wednesday night, the House passed – and President Obama signed – a budget deal hammered out by the Senate to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, narrowly avoiding the threat of default. (The Treasury Department estimated that the U.S. would come perilously close to running out of cash to pay its bills by Thursday.) Here’s what the bill does:

  1. It suspends the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. The Treasury Department can borrow additional funds through February 7 to ensure that the U.S. meets its obligations, and Treasury may employ “extraordinary measures” to pay the nation’s bills for a while after that date. But the debt ceiling will need to be raised or suspended again later in 2014.
  2. It ends the shutdown and funds the federal government through January 15, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are now back on the job, museums and monuments have reopened, and federal programs are resuming normal operations. The bill provides back pay for furloughed workers and reimbursement for states that covered costs during the shutdown that are normally assumed by the federal government. But the 16-day shutdown needlessly cost billions of dollars, weakened the economy and the creditworthiness of the United States, and hurt low-income families who rely on government programs.
  3. It leaves the health care law intact – but keeps the sequester, too. The bill does not contain any of the major concessions that House Republican leadership sought to delay or defund provisions of the health care law (“Obamacare”). But the Senate did agree to maintain FY 2013 spending levels through January 15, which means the sequester – which has cut billions of dollars from programs that women and their families depend on and undermined the economic recovery – will continue. Under the bill, government funding levels for the first few months of FY 2014 will be much closer to the House-passed budget plan than to the Senate’s own FY 2014 budget.
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How the Shutdown Is Hurting Low-Income Families

We’re on Day 4 of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. Here in D.C., the subway and the streets are noticeably emptier without thousands of federal workers on the job. And while a few might be enjoying their time off to take advantage of the shutdown-themed happy hours around town, most are worried about the financial consequences of a prolonged shutdown for themselves and their families (especially since many have already faced pay freezes and furloughs thanks to the sequester and other budget cuts).

But it’s not just the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who are affected by the shutdown. Some federal contractors won’t get paid, either – including workers making close to minimum wage who are unlikely to have much in the way of savings to fall back on. And low-income families who depend on federally funded programs are suffering, too. For example:

Stop Tax Haven Abuse—Another Way to Fight Poverty and Inequality

It’s been a roller coaster week, and it’s not over yet. Disappointing news from the Census Bureau that we didn’t make progress reducing poverty or the wage gap last year. Exciting news from the Department of Labor about a new rule that brings home care workers one giant step closer to fair pay. The threat that the House will vote later today to slash vital SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits for millions of Americans and vote tomorrow to extend the sequester for several more months. The sequester vote will include yet another effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.

But even in Congress, there are some encouraging developments. Yesterday, several Members of Congress turned out for a special game of Chutes and Ladders (with hula hoops!) to show their support for investing in early learning. And today, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and cosponsors Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to close offshore tax loopholes. Read more »

Why it’s Time to Untie the Global Gag Rule—For Good

Way back in 1984, President Ronald Reagan introduced the Mexico City Policy, a policy that would come to be known as the “Global Gag Rule.” The law denied U.S. international family planning funds to any organization that used its own money to provide, discuss, advocate for, or provide referrals to abortion services abroad. The policy even applied in countries where abortion is legal. Read more »

Why the "Student Success Act" Puts Schools and Their Students on the Wrong Course

When the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, its goal was to enhance educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. As Senator Tom Harkin, Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, asserted in an Education Week blog last month, ESEA was meant to help lift children out of poverty by making high-quality education accessible to all.

That is still the goal today. And while the 2001 reauthorization of the law, also known as No Child Left Behind, was well intentioned and helped expose the stark disparities in our education system, leaders from both parties acknowledge that the law needs improvement. Republicans and Democrats in the both the House and the Senate have come up with their own revised versions of ESEA this summer (New America’s blog put out a helpful side by side comparison here [PFD]).

Today, the House will begin debate on the so-called “Student Success Act” (SSA), the version of ESEA reauthorization proposed by John Kline, chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee. Despite the clever title, the bill is a giant step in the wrong direction for students. Read more »