Senate Dems Strike a Deal on Extending Unemployment BenefitsOctober 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
The Senate has been stalled on voting to extend unemployment benefits like the House did two weeks ago. But they’ve finally figured out how to move forward and it involves extending the benefits for more people than the House bill would. The Hill reports:
Senate Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill that would extend unemployment insurance benefits by 14 weeks at most for jobless Americans in every state.
The new effort — spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) – ends weeks of bickering among Democrats over how long the extension would last and who would be eligible for it.
“Chairman Baucus and I worked with our colleagues Senators Reed and Shaheen for the last two weeks to broker an agreement that provides critical assistance to unemployed workers across the nation,” Reid said Thursday in a statement. “This agreement recognizes the need to extend unemployment benefits for workers in every state whose unemployment benefits have run out or will do so in the next several weeks.
Under the new proposal, jobless Americans about to run out of benefits would receive up to 14 additional weeks of unemployment insurance, and those without work in states with unemployment rates exceeding 8.5 percent would receive another six weeks on top of that. Both expansions are paid for in full by an extension of the Federal Unemployment Tax – a yearly fee employers pay – until 2011, the four lawmakers indicated.
The bill approved by the House (H.R. 3548) would extend benefits by 13 weeks and only in states with jobless rates above 8.5 percent. That would have left out about 23 states, even though unemployment has gone up in all those states since the economy started turning south. A list of unemployment rates by state can be seen here.
A joint Senate press release adds this:
The proposal includes a modification to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to allow families receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, to remain eligible while receiving an additional $25 per week in unemployment insurance benefits. The bill would also update the Unemployment Insurance Modernization provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to allow victims of sexual assault who have left their job to be eligible for benefits under the “compelling family reasons” clause. Additionally, the legislation specifies railroad workers facing expiring unemployment benefits would be eligible for additional weeks.
Democrats tried to bring the new bill to the floor today for quick passage, but the unanimous consent agreement was blocked by Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl [R, AZ]. Kyl said that he wanted to see a CBO score for the bill before they vote, to which, according to Senatus, Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] quipped – Republicans had found a new stalling tactic: waiting for a CBO score.
Still, expect this to pas the Senate soon. Once it passes it will have to be reconciled with the Senate bill and passed again by each chamber, unless the House simply adopts the Senate language. In that case it will only need another vote from the House.
For tons more information, see the Benefit Wiki Project on OpenCongress. There you’ll find state-by-state information on unemployment benefits, including regular unemployment compensation, the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and the Extended Benefits Program, all in a free, open-source, fully-referenced, and non-partisan public resource.