Debate Stirring Over Extending Unemployment Benefits

Sharron Angle, Rand Paul say benefits encourage people to stay unemployed.

ByABC News
July 7, 2010, 6:03 PM

July 7, 2010— -- Michael Overholt, a construction worker from Carmichael, California, is one of the nation's 15 million unemployed people.

"The wife comes home and I'm sitting here," Overholt said. "You feel like you're not worth anything."

Overholt has been unemployed for almost four years. For the past 36 days, Congress has refused to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

"We want to go back to work," Overholt said of the unemployed. "We're not taking unemployment and kicking back enjoying life."

The unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, hovering just below double digits. The private sector added only 83,000 jobs in June, far short of the 200,000 needed to bring down the unemployment rate.

With the high unemployment rate and economists predicting that unemployment will remain high for the foreseeable future, policy makers are debating the best way to deal with the nation's jobless.

Perhaps the biggest problem is how to deal with the long-term unemployed.

Tea Party Anger

In the public debate, opinion seems to be split about Overholt and others like him who have been unemployed for a long time. Some want to give them help as long as possible, extending unemployment insurance as long as they need it.

Perhaps most loudly, Tea Party-backed Republican Senatorial candidates wonder if continuing benefits that average just over $1200 per month is helping.

"They keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn't pay as much as the employment benefit does," Sharron Angle, a Tea Party-backed Senate candidate in Nevada, said.