The pain continues for millions of jobless workers and their families as long-term unemployment has reached historic highs. Although small gains in reemployment have been made, women have actually lost ground. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent in November, the unemployment rate for women who maintain families was 12.1 percent. In a time when a decent paying job with benefits is hard to come by and more education is needed for jobs that once required high school diplomas, the assistance of unemployment insurance has kept many women and their families out of poverty. Extra assistance allows women to work and acquire the skills and training they need to advance their job opportunities. As the holidays approach, what will the outcome be for millions of women (and their families) who struggle to find work and support family needs? Well, if Congress fails to act and does not step up to renew Unemployment Insurance, which is set to expire Dec. 31, 2011, the outcome will be dismal. Nearly two million people will be cut off from unemployment insurance just in the month of January, with more than six million cut off throughout 2012. Why should these people be punished for the failure of Congress and to create jobs? Unemployment insurance provides income and protection to those who have lost their jobs due to the troubled economy. It is a critical lifeline so many women depend on for economic security; but it is not just a safety net for individuals struggling with job loss but for the whole economic system. Currently, two-thirds of family women in the U.S. are breadwinners. Those who are unable to sufficiently make ends meet use unemployment insurance. This extra money allows women to pay for groceries, transportation, housing and utilities, all of which pump money back into the economy. Because families need this money to survive, they willingly spend the money, which drives up the demand and creates jobs. Looking for work is taking longer than just 27 weeks, and federal benefits alleviate the financial burden families are bearing. With the unemployment rate so high, this is no time for Congress to play games with the survival of millions of women and their families. This post is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival on women, the economy, and unemployment insurance.