Poll: Jobless Insurance Now, Deficit Reduction Later

By Seth Freed Wessler Jun 08, 2010

The Senate is expected to begin debate today on extending unemployment insurance until November. The overwhelming majority of Americans support doing so, according to a new poll, but the Senate is poised to ignore that fact–not to mention the plight of millions of unemployed Americans. Many senators on both sides of the aisle say it’s time to stop the essential support in the name of reducing the deficit. But with millions struggling with longterm joblessness, three quarters of voters believe that the safety net is more important right now than concerns over federal debt, according to a poll released this week by the National Employment Law Project. In the survey, taken last week, 74 percent of those polled agreed "it is too early to start cutting back benefits and health coverage for workers who lost their jobs." On the House side, the bill was passed last week after lawmakers removed an extension of federal support for the COBRA health insurance program. That move was intended to appease conservative Democrats who have raised deficit objections. Now, Senate conservatives are threatening to cut unemployment benefits as well, in a time when long term unemployment is approaching record highs. According to the Labor Department, 1.2 million people will lose unemployment insurance benefits by month’s end if the program isn’t extended. Visual design: Hatty Lee