Senators Signal an Extension of Unemployment Benefits May Be Possible

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Source: Bytemarks / Flickr

Source: Bytemarks via Flickr

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address underlined his commitment to expanding the opportunities of the middle class and putting America’s jobless back to work. With his call for Congress to “restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people,” the president put the spotlight back on the country’s long-term unemployed. Now, a bipartisan group of Senators has announced that a compromise has been reached to extend jobless benefits to those Americans who have been unemployed for five months or more. If the deal is approved by upper house of Congress, the months-long dispute between Republican and Democrat lawmakers over how to cover the cost of the benefits extension and how long they should continue will be solved.

“Seeking to boost the economy and provide relief for the more than 2 million job seeking Americans who have lost emergency unemployment insurance coverage since December 28, 2013, a group of 10 U.S. Senators led by Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) today announced an agreement to reauthorize emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for 5 months,” explained the press release issued by Senator Reed on Thursday. The bill is cosponsored by Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas, and Mark Kirk of Illinois, as well as Democrat Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Cory Booker of New  Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Dick Durbin of Illinois.  The plan will allow for retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to December 28.

On December 28, the Bush-era extension of emergency unemployment benefits expired, meaning the approximately 1.3 million Americans who had been collecting unemployment for more than 26 weeks lost benefits. Then-President George W. Bush signed the last extension of the program into law in late 2008 as the number of layoffs soared, pushing the number of people filing for unemployment insurance to a 16-year high. The deal also ended jobless payments to people earning over $1 million.

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