Congress Reaches Year-End Resolution on Unemployment, Payroll Tax Extension
Dec 23, 2011
Jan. 1 is not the time to cut jobless workers off desperately needed unemployment insurance benefits, but neither is March 1.
Millions of jobless workers and their families have a little less to worry about today after the U.S. House, under tremendous public and political pressure, passed a bill that extends federal unemployment insurance benefits for an additional two months. The bill also extends the payroll tax cut and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant.
The agreement comes after a standoff early in the week in which House leadership rejected the bipartisan Senate bill. Without the compromise, more than 1 million long-term unemployed workers would have lost their benefits by the end of January, and the numbers would have continued to grow each month.
Passage of the bill, even at the 11th hour, is good news for now, but the extension is only for two months. When lawmakers return to Washington in January, they will have to get back to work and forge a compromise that extends federal unemployment insurance benefits for a full year without adding extraneous provisions that suggest that workers are unemployed because of their personal failings, rather than because of the persistent lack of jobs.
Long-term unemployment remains at record highs, with 43 percent of all unemployed workers without a job for six months or longer. There is still only one job available for every four people looking. Lawmakers ultimately passed the bill because they recognized that January 1 is not the time to cut workers off of desperately needed benefits, but they should also understand that March 1 is not the time either..