I really don't understand the objection to using stimulus funds to expand unemployment insurance to help the larger number of people who are now out of work, and especially those who have the extra misfortune of not being eligible because they've been laid off more than once recently. What is the economic rationale - never mind the compassionate one - for letting folks like this struggle and accumulate debt?
For people like Henry Kight, 59, of Austin, Tex., the possibility that the money might be turned down is a deeply personal issue.
Mr. Kight, who worked for more than three decades as an engineering technician, discovered in September that because of complex state rules, he was not eligible for unemployment insurance after losing a job at a major electronics manufacturer he had landed at the beginning of the year.
Unable to draw jobless benefits, he and his wife have taken on thousands of dollars in credit-card debt to help make ends meet.
It is precisely these kind of regulations, involving such matters as the length of a person's work history or reason for leaving a job, that the federal government is trying to get the states to change. Such a move could extend benefits to an estimated half-million more people, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal group in New York that supports the changes.
Mr. Kight and other unemployed workers said they were incensed to learn they were living in one of a handful of states -- many of them among the poorest in the nation -- that might not provide the expanded benefits.
"It just seems unreasonable," Mr. Kight said, "that when people probably need the help the most, that because of partisan activity, or partisan feelings, against the current new administration, that Perry is willing to sacrifice the lives of so many Texans that have been out of work in the last year."
He was referring to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has said he may decline the extra money rather than change state policy.
"I remain opposed to using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up," Mr. Perry wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama last week.
The governors contend that once the federal money ran out, they would have to continue providing the new benefits, which they say would force them to raise taxes on businesses. The federal money will end in two or three years in some states, or much later in others, depending on the size of the state allocation.
Proponents say that nothing would prevent states from changing the laws back at that time.
In Mr. Kight's case, he was unemployed for the second half of 2007, after losing an earlier job he had at a different electronics manufacturer in a downsizing. As a result, when he applied for unemployment benefits, he did not have enough immediate work history to qualify.
"I have worked for so many years, a total of probably 30 years, contributing to the support system that helps people when they get in a tough spot like I'm in," Mr. Kight said. "I haven't needed it too much in the past, but I sure could use it right now."