Saturday, April 3, 2010

200,000 to Lose Unemployment Benefits for at Least 2 Weeks Because Congress Failed to Act

Judy Conti of the National Employment Law Project, tells The Hill that 200,000 unemployed people will lose their benefits for at least two weeks because Congress is on its Easter recess until April 12.

As the two-week recess began, Congress was at an impasse over how to extend the emergency unemployment insurance program and other expiring provisions, including increased COBRA health insurance subsidies for the unemployed, the Medicare doctor payment rate and federal flood insurance.

Senate Republicans said the $9.3 billion, 30-day extension preferred by Democrats should be paid for, while Democrats said the bill's cost didn't need to be offset because the program was "emergency spending."

Under the jobless benefits program that ends Monday, Americans out of work are eligible for up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. The program, aimed at helping jobless Americans stay afloat when new jobs aren't readily available, gives an unemployed worker more than the 26 weeks of unemployment insurance normally available. But with the program ending, those out of work for as few as six months will see an interruption in their benefit checks.

"Odds are they have burned through savings, already asked for loans and gifts from family and friends if needed, so going for two weeks without a paycheck, especially if those two weeks are a time when rent or mortgage is due, is going to be hard," Conti said.

Those who will miss unemployment checks may see them in the future.

Senate Democrats said they'll try to pass an extension of the program that can be applied retroactively once Congress is back in session. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a vote on cloture to end debate on the short-term extension for April 12.

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