Yesterday, the Senate failed to overcome a Republican filibuster of the jobs bill. The bill would have extended unemployment benefits to more than a million of people who are out of work and would have also provided relief to state and local governments.
State and local government employment has been battered by the recession. Thousands of teacher, firefighter, police and other jobs have been eliminated as a consequence of the rapid decline in tax revenues. The Center for Budget and Policies Priorities calculates that 231,000 government positions have been eliminated since 2008. In an effort to offer assistance to the states to staunch the job loss, the jobs bill would have extended the enhanced Medicaid match that was contained in the original stimulus bill. Over the next year, these benefits would provide $15 billion in assistance.
The District just completed its budget for fiscal year 2011. As part of its revenue projections, the District assumed that the enhanced Medicaid match would be renewed. (About two-thirds of the states have also assumed that Congress would renew the program). The loss of these funds will open up a $54 million hole in the District’s budget. Unfortunately, when the District has been forced to fill gaps like these in the past, social services have been the first to be cut.
This is a double hit for people living in poverty in the District. Unemployment is extraordinarily high in low-income neighborhoods, long term unemployment is especially acute, federal benefits have been cut and the District will have fewer resources to provide a safety net. One can only imagine if those who opposed this legislation have Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature in mind for those at the bottom of our economic scale: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."