RACINE COUNTY — More than 1,000 Racine County residents could awake this morning without a job and without the ability to collect an unemployment check.
A federal program that provided extended unemployment benefits to Americans who lost their jobs during the recession expires today, cutting off benefits for 1.3 million people, 25,000 of them Wisconsinites.
Established to provide unemployment benefits to out-of-work residents who exhausted state jobless benefits, the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was created on June 30, 2008.
According to data provided Friday by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, 1,222 Racine County residents applied for benefits through the program earlier this month.
Friday marked the last day any of those residents were able to collect those benefits.
Racine resident Dave Kuiper, who was laid off from a hotel job in April, said Friday that he is not sure what he will do when his benefits expire today.
Despite 15 years of experience in the retail sector and a pharmacy technician certificate, the 54-year-old said he hasn’t been able to find full-time work.
“I have applied for 900 jobs since March, and all I get is part-time, minimum-wage jobs,” Kuiper said.
Although his wife is a teacher at Gateway Technical College, without his unemployment compensation the family, which includes two high school-age daughters, will be looking at what they can cut to make ends meet — including some of Kuiper’s medications, he said.
Democrats had pressed for legislation to continue the EUC program but Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives opposed it. The House adjourned for the year on Dec. 12 without considering an extension.
Local Democrats blasted House Republicans like Paul Ryan for not renewing the benefits during a press conference last week in Racine.
Ryan, whose 1st Congressional District includes Racine County, has defended the benefits expiration in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Dec. 15, saying that extending the program “would have blown a hole” in the federal deficit and prolonged unemployment.
State Rep. Cory Mason, a Racine Democrat, has said continued benefits are needed to help families in Racine where the economic “recovery has taken too long for too many.”
Since 2008, when the EUC program began, the City of Racine has been the city with the highest or second highest jobless rate in the state.
Monthly unemployment figures released by the DWD on Thursday showed the city had the highest unemployment rate in the state in November at 11.2 percent.
At its peak, between June 2008 and August 2010, the EUC program had the potential to provide up to 99 weeks of unemployment compensation to out-of-work Wisconsinites, explained Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Communications Director John Dipko on Friday.
“That was the maximum amount of eligibility when you add all the programs together end to end,” Dipko said. “Over time, as the economy improved and the program has been modified, the number has changed.”
In 2013, the program mostly only provided an unemployment extension for up to 28 weeks, and only for those Wisconsinites who, despite looking for work, had exhausted the 26 weeks of unemployment compensation provided by the state, Dipko said.
If Congress does not vote to extend federal unemployment benefits when they return to work next month, as President Barack Obama urged Friday, anyone who runs out of their 26 weeks of state unemployment will not be able to collect any more unemployment benefits from the state or federal government.
Although that is the case, Dipko noted that the average amount of time that a Wisconsinite applies for state unemployment benefits is between 16 and 17 weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By The Numbers
November unemployment rates 2008-2013 — City of Racine
2008 — 9.7 percent
2009 — 15.5 percent
2010 — 14.3 percent
2011 — 11.8 percent
2012 — 11.4 percent
2013 — 11.2 percent
November unemployment rates 2008-2013 — Racine County
2008 — 6.1 percent
2009 — 10 percent
2010 — 9.1 percent
2011 — 8.2 percent
2012 — 7.9 percent
2013 — 7.7 percent
Source: Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.