CHN: Senate Moves Unemployment Insurance
On April 7, after three earlier failed attempts, the Senate passed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 (H.R. 3979) to restore unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed. The vote was 59-38. Six Republican Senators including Ayotte (NH), Collins (ME), Heller (NV), Kirk (IL), Murkowski (AK) and Portman (OH) joined Democrats and Independents in support of the legislation. The 5-month fully paid-for bill would assist 2.3 million workers and their families as they search for work. Many of these families have urgent needs and are desperate for the House to act soon. (See more details in the March 31 Human Needs Report.)
Immediately after Senate passage, Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI), who has been a leader in pressing Speaker Boehner for a vote in the House, introduced an identical companion bill to H.R. 3979. Democrats believe that the Senate-passed bill, if allowed to reach the floor, would pass. Speaker Boehner thus far has refused to bring a bill to increase unemployment insurance to the floor even as his excuses have been addressed – the Senate bill is paid for, it does create jobs (200,000 according the Congressional Budget Office), and he has been assured by the Secretary of Labor that state agencies that retroactively restarted the program at other times can do so again.
A group of seven House Republicans (Representatives Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Peter King (NY), Jon Runyan (NJ), Chris Smith (NJ), Chris Gibson (NY), Michael Grimm (NY) and Joe Heck (NV)) have written a letter to Speaker Boehner urging him to take action. The letter reads in part, “Today, a bi-partisan deal was passed in the U.S. Senate that would retroactively restore unemployment benefits and extend these benefits for 5 months. As many Americans continue to struggle without benefits, we respectfully request that the House immediately consider this bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans.”
According to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March 3.7 million people were unemployed for 27 weeks or longer (state insurance typically lasts 26 weeks), and they made up about 36 percent of the jobless workers.
Congress is on a two-week recess. When they return on April 29 it will be imperative that the House acts quickly to restore these urgently needed benefits for long-term unemployed workers.