CHN: Unemployment Benefits Extended for Some Workers
Over One Million Workers Left Behind
On January 8, the President signed into law a $7.2 billion package to extend unemployment benefits for some jobless workers. The House passed the bill earlier that day, and the Senate unanimously passed the measure on January 7. The law (PL 108-1) – the first passed in the 108th Congress – grants 13 weeks of federal assistance to unemployed workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state aid.
Eligible workers include those whose state benefits will run out before June 1 and those whose federal unemployment assistance – available through the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) Program passed last March – expired on December 28. While the law will provide assistance to the roughly 750,000 workers whose federal benefits stopped on December 28, it is estimated that another one million jobless workers – those who have already exhausted the 13 weeks of federal assistance provided through TEUC – will be left out of the new package.
Congressional disagreements over competing versions of a measure to extend federal unemployment benefits were not resolved before Congress’s lame-duck session ended last November, leaving TEUC to expire during the holiday season. In a move that both Democrats and Republicans thought helped negotiations, President Bush addressed the issue in a radio address on December 14.
Nevertheless, when new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) introduced the bill in a unanimous consent request, Senate Democrats attempted to add an amendment that would provide an additional 13 weeks of federal benefits to those one million workers left out of the package. Republicans objected to consideration of the amendment, and Democrats – led by Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) – ultimately conceded. Senate Democrats insist that they will continue to push for the amendment, and have indicated that they may reintroduce it as part of the economic stimulus debate.