Job­less ben­e­fit ex­ten­sion vote likely to­day

Long-term un­em­ploy­ment rate hits 62-year high amid se­nate im­passe

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS -

WASHINGTON — The Se­nate is poised to­day to vote on ex­tend­ing ben­e­fits to 2.5 mil­lion un­em­ployed Amer­i­cans, as the pro­por­tion of long-term un­em­ployed rises to a 62-year high.

Ben­e­fits for those who have been out of work for more than six months ex­pired 48 days ago as a re­sult of the im­passe, cut­ting off aid to 2.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans with the to­tal grow­ing by 200,000 a week. There are al­most five job­less Amer­i­cans for ev­ery job open­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics.

Mean­while, the Se­nate hit an im­passe over ex­tend­ing the ben­e­fits, with Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion over the added cost to the fed­eral deficit and as­ser­tions that the ben­e­fits are a dis­in­cen­tive to find work.

Se­nate Democrats are ex­pected to bring the un­em­ploy­ment in­surance bill back up to­day af­ter they swear in an­other Demo­crat, Carte Good­win of West Vir­ginia, to be the in­terim suc­ces­sor to Robert Byrd, who died last month. Good­win will pro­vide Democrats with the 60th vote they need to close de­bate and pass the mea­sure.

As­sum­ing Se­nate pas­sage, the House is ex­pected to vote Wed­nes­day on the mea­sure, which would ex­tend ben­e­fits by six months and cost an es­ti­mated $33 bil­lion.

About 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple have seen their weekly checks in­ter­rupted since an ear­lier ex­ten­sion of the job­less aid pro­gram ex­pired June 2.

Even as the over­all un­em­ploy­ment rate has be­gun to drop — fall­ing to 9.5 per­cent in June from a peak of 10.1 per­cent in Oc­to­ber — the pro­por­tion of the work force that has been out of work for more than six months has risen to 4.4 per­cent.

The long-term un­em­ploy­ment rate has not ap­proached such a level since the govern­ment be­gan keep­ing the statis­tic in 1948, al­though the rate was al­most cer­tainly much higher dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion of the 1930s.

There are now 14.6 mil­lion un­em­ployed peo­ple in the U.S., and more than 9.2 mil­lion of them are col­lect­ing some form of job­less in­surance, in­clud­ing 4.9 mil­lion re­ceiv­ing the fed­eral ex­ten­sions.

The im­passe hasn’t af­fected the 4.3 mil­lion or so who have been col­lect­ing their first six months of

state-paid ben­e­fits; but some­one whose state ben­e­fits have run since June 2 hasn’t been el­i­gi­ble for the next 20 weeks’ worth of ben­e­fits while oth­ers in the pro­gram can’t qual­ify for three ad­di­tional “tiers” of ben­e­fits af­ter that.

As­sum­ing pas­sage of the lat­est bill, peo­ple who lost their ben­e­fits be­cause of Congress’ in­ac­tion will be able to re­ceive them retroac­tively. But that could prove cum­ber­some as peo­ple flood state of­fices to reap­ply for ben­e­fits and as states grap­ple with ques­tions such as re­quire­ments that job­less peo­ple de­tail the steps they’re tak­ing to find work.

Repub­li­cans have blocked sev­eral ear­lier ef­forts to bring the ben­e­fit-ex­ten­sion mea­sure to the Se­nate floor for a vote. They chal­lenged Democrats to cut spend­ing else­where so that the ex­tended ben­e­fits would not in­crease the deficit.

On Mon­day, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sharply crit­i­cized Repub­li­cans for hold­ing up the bill.

He noted that Repub­li­cans voted to ex­tend job­less ben­e­fits un­der his GOP pre­de­ces­sor, Ge­orge W. Bush, but they had been un­will­ing to do so now.

“For a long time, there has been a tra­di­tion un­der both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can pres­i­dents to of­fer re­lief to the un­em­ployed,” he said. “That was cer­tainly the case un­der my pre­de­ces­sor, when Repub­li­cans sev­eral times voted to ex­tend emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits.”

House Repub­li­can leader John Boehner of Ohio fired back.

In a pre­pared state­ment, Boehner said: “The pres­i­dent knows that Repub­li­cans sup­port ex­tend­ing un­em­ploy­ment in­surance, and do­ing it in a fis­cally re­spon­si­ble way by cut­ting spend­ing else­where in the $3 tril­lion fed­eral bud­get.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama Crit­i­cizes Repub­li­cans for hold­ing up mea­sure that would ex­tend job­less ben­e­fits.

John Boehner House GOP leader says party sup­ports ex­tend­ing ben­e­fits if spend­ing is cut else­where from bud­get.

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