Just around the corner: The Fiscal Cliff


By Melissa Young,  Associate Director NTJN

Congress returned to Washington Tuesday with a full plate of issues to grapple with between now and the end of the year that could significantly impact all Americans – but especially low-income Americans and individuals facing barriers to employment. Here are three of the key issues we’re watching: the “Fiscal Cliff”, Emergency Unemployment Insurance, and a Senate resolution that has the potential to prevent HHS from seeking and approving waivers that allow states to modernize employment outcomes through TANF.

Fiscal Cliff. The “fiscal cliff as it’s been coined amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and the Bush-era tax cuts at the end of December. Lawmakers must decide quickly how to steer the country. Leaders may have three options: strike a deal in the final days of the 112th Congress, pass a law delaying sequestration and/or the expiring tax cuts until the new congressional session, or do nothing and let the components of the fiscal cliff automatically take effect as we enter 2013.  The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that allowing for components of the cliff to take effect may result in setbacks for America’s fragile economic recovery. Regardless of how the process unfolds during the lame-duck session and beyond, we stand with allied organizations across the country and urge Congress to seek a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not further cut non-defense discretionary programs and upholds a commitment to programs and services for low-income individuals with barriers to employment. Additionally, while the economy is still struggling, the NTJN along with 146 national organizations and coalitions have urged policy makers to prioritize job creation measures like those in the American Jobs Act. The NTJN has long advocated for measures that support transitions to work for low-income adults and youth through subsidized employment and job training efforts. We encourage policy makers to consider taking another look at proposals like Pathways Back to Work in order to meet this goal.

 Emergency Unemployment Insurance. If the Emergency Unemployment Insurance (EUI) program is left to terminate at the end of the year,over 2 million Americans will lose unemployment benefits ─ taking away income they depend on to support their families as they search for new work. Alongside the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and others across the country we urge Congress to reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Insurance program. See NELP’s report for more information.

The Senate might vote on bill that would disallow the US Department of Health and Human Services to exercise the Secretary’s discretion to approve waivers from states seeking to modernize work participation outcomes through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). As we’ve highlighted in our recommendations, the waiver presents a welcome opportunity for states to develop and test strategies that improve employment outcomes through TANF and promote employment, education, and training strategies that support transitions to employment for the most vulnerable jobseekers with barriers to employment. We encourage you to reach out to your Senator and let them know that you support flexibility to improve employment outcomes in TANF.

Stay tuned to the NTJN for more policy updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest information and opportunities to weigh-in with leaders.

About National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity is dedicated to ending chronic unemployment and poverty. We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. Through our field building, we provide support and guidance that fosters more effective and sustainable employment efforts. Our policy and advocacy work advances solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.

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