It is not looking particularly good in terms of resolving the fiscal-cliff tiff, at least before the entire country is caught in mid-air flapping its arms.
As of this moment, here's the sitch, from AP:
President Barack Obama says "the hour for immediate action is here" on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. The president says he remains "optimistic" that an agreement can be reached in Congress before a looming year-end deadline to avoid tax increases and spending cuts. If Congress can't reach a deal, the president says Congress should allow a vote on a basic package that would preserve tax cuts for middle-class Americans while extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and working toward a foundation for a broader deal. The president says an hourlong meeting Friday with congressional leaders was "good and constructive." Senate leaders say they hope to reach a compromise that could be presented to lawmakers by Sunday, little more than 24 hours before the deadline.
If you want to continue to monitor this cliffhanger, our colleagues at NPR's Two-Way blog are following the story.
If we actually go over that precipice, it's the cessation of extended unemployment benefits that could be felt the most by those already struggling. On that front, if no deal is reached, the expiration of benefits for those who have had them extended is Saturday, Dec. 29 (tomorrow), "even if someone may have a balance remaining on a federal extension claim," according to the California Employment Development Department.
Today the EDD issued the following statement, and it includes important information for those who are receiving extended unemployment benefits.
End of Federal Extensions of Unemployment Benefits as Congress Continues to Discuss Fiscal Cliff Issues
SACRAMENTO – The federal extensions of unemployment benefits are set to expire after Saturday, December 29th as Congress works to determine if the program should be reauthorized and whether benefits should continue for an estimated 400,000 impacted Californians.
The California Employment Development Department (EDD) which administers the federal extension program in California along with the regular state-provided unemployment benefits is keeping customers alerted to the latest developments so they’ll know what to expect. The necessary technical programming to restart extension benefits has already been prepared in the event Congress and the President do agree to extend payments in their federal extension program without making changes in the existing weeks or tiers of benefits.
“Because the situation regarding the federal extensions is so fluid at this time and the cut-off of these benefits can have devastating effects on many long-term unemployed in California, the EDD is closely monitoring the discussions in Washington D.C.,” said Pam Harris, the EDD Director. “We strongly encourage our customers to keep an eye on our EDD website, Facebook, and Twitter pages for any updates on developments so they can be as prepared as possible.”
If the extension benefits are reauthorized within a few days of their expiration this weekend, then any interruption in extension payments should be avoided. The EDD will automatically re-open extension claims and send customers the necessary paperwork. Customers do NOT need to contact the department as EDD will work to seamlessly restart the extension program.
But the longer any decision to reauthorize the program goes beyond the expiration date on Saturday, the longer potential delays could occur in eventually restarting extension payments. If Congress makes major changes in the existing program, EDD will require some additional time to make those changes and will work diligently to ensure that potential delays are minimized. And, if the U.S. Congress decides NOT to reauthorize the extension of unemployment benefits, then customers need to be aware that no further extension payments can be made by the EDD after this week- even if someone remains unemployed and still has a balance remaining on their current extension claim.
For the last 4 ½ years, the federal government has provided anywhere between 47 and 73 weeks of additional benefits to the unemployed who had run out of their original up to 26 weeks of regular state-provided benefits. With the unprecedented demand of the recession, a total of more than $40 billion has been paid in federal extension benefits in California.
California's unemployment rate is currently 9.8 percent. The state says more than 920,000 people are currently certified for benefits, and that "the majority of these customers are collecting on a federal extension claim while the remainder are somewhere in the midst of a regular unemployment claim." More information on unemployment extensions from EDD here.
KQED's Rachel Dornhelm today headed over to the EDD Career Center on Turk Street in San Francisco for reaction. "I cannot pay my rent ... It’s really tough," Ahmed Almutar told her. "In the meantime I’ve got to keep my fingers cross that I get paid."
Christian Simonetti said he’s not on an extension, but said without benefits during the times he's been unemployed over the last two years, he would have “lost everything."
“I’m really galled by the fact the Republicans and Democrats can’t come up with a solution," he said, though he mostly blamed Republicans. “They should think about the very real effects that it will have on peoples’ lives. More people will become homeless, more people will become hungry, more people will end up on government assistance of one sort or another.”