Further Extension of Unemployment Benefits Likely
By Karoun Demirjian, CQ Staff
A new push from the Obama administration over the weekend may aid lawmakers in their efforts to pass an extension of unemployment benefits following the August recess.
Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee have begun working to craft an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits before Sept. 30, when many workers will have exhausted both their regular and extended jobless benefits.
Congress has already acted twice during the current recession to keep unemployment benefits flowing — once in last year’s supplemental spending bill (PL 110-252) and again in the economic stimulus package enacted early this year (PL 111-5).
But without another extension, more and more workers will start losing their benefits every month.
Extending unemployment benefits “is something that the administration and Congress are going to look very carefully at as we get closer to the end of this year,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
But the details have not been resolved.
“That’s what we’re working on now in terms of the some of the changes that have already been made that wipes out UI,” said Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Ways and Means committee, which would be first to consider an extension of unemployment benefits. The committee is expected to take up legislation on the issue soon after the August recess.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, introduced a bill (HR 3404) late last week to keep a program of extended unemployment benefits running through Dec. 31, 2010, instead of expiring as scheduled at the end of 2009.
McDermott’s bill also would keep in force through 2010 the extra $25 per week in benefit checks approved under the stimulus bill.
In addition, the bill would extend jobless benefits for an additional 13 weeks in states with unemployment rates at or above 9 percent on a rolling three-month average. As of now, he said, 20 states would qualify.
Geithner and others have predicted that the national unemployment rate may not peak until the second half of 2010, potentially putting more people in need of unemployment assistance.
About 1.5 million are already expected to lose their benefits by the end of 2009.
Keeping those people covered, and providing benefits to thousands more likely to lose their jobs over the next year, isn’t expected to come cheap.
States already are having difficulty paying out the unemployment benefits owed their residents. To keep checks flowing, Congress passed legislation last week (HR 3357) last week authorizing transfers from the Treasury to the federal unemployment benefits trust fund, so that it can continue to lend states money to cover their UI obligations, indefinitely and without limit.
But until the job market recovers, support for a UI extension that at least continues the extra 13 weeks of coverage into the next fiscal year appears to be bipartisan.
“We’ll definitely support that,” said South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint, a conservative Republican, on Sunday’s Fox News Sunday program.
Source: CQ Today Online News
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And here's an article from NPR's Planet Money that is pretty interesting (or really depressing, depending on your perspective).