Congress Moves to Extend Unemployment Benefits

Oct 09, 2009

By Josh Bone

Millions of workers on the verge of exhausting their unemployment insurance may get an extension thanks to legislation introduced in the Senate on Oct. 8.  

Senate Democratic leadership introduced legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for an additional 14 weeks in all states. Workers in states with unemployment rates over 8.5% would receive a total of 20 additional weeks.  A House bill introduced in late September extended benefits by 13 weeks, but only in states that had unemployment rates over 8.5%. 

The Senate bill also includes provisions that would provide additional unemployment insurance assistance to food stamps recipients, victims of sexual assault, and railroad workers.  The legislation, which is projected to cost $2.8 billion, would be paid for through a two-year extension of the unemployment insurance surtax on employers.  The surtax has been in existence for 30 years.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act extended the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides all recipients 20 additional weeks of unemployment insurance, and provides recipients in particularly hard-hit states 33 additional weeks, but the extension is set to expire on December 31.  Even with the ARRA extensions, 400,000 recipients exhausted their benefits at the end of September, and another million will do so by Dec. 31 if Congress does not act, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation next week, and, if approved, the House will vote on the legislation soon after. With the national unemployment rate reaching 9.8 percent in October, it is critical that Congress move forward with this legislation, helping the long-term unemployed and preventing them from being cut off from unemployment benefits.


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