Congress considers extending unemployment benefits

As the Senate this week considers a bill to reduce unemployment, lawmakers face the decision of whether to continue extending jobless benefits, according to The Washington Post.

In 2009, the Senate approved a measure that extended benefits from 79 to 99 weeks—an all-time high—for people in states with high unemployment rates. Additionally, Congress is spending more than $13 billion per month to fund the extended jobless benefits because states pay for the first 26 weeks and the federal government pays for the rest.

However, about 1 million people will be ineligible for benefits at the end of this month if Congress does not pass legislation to extend jobless benefits. About 12 million people currently are receiving benefits.

Republican lawmakers have not said whether they will continue to support the benefits, and some Democrats believe in a temporary extension while others want an extension for the duration of this year. Some economists say unemployment benefits can lead people to wait longer to find full-time work. However, because of the struggling economy and limited hiring, neither party has expressed much reluctance to extend the benefits.

“We have unprecedented long-term unemployment,” says Maurice Emsellem, a policy co-director for the National Employment Law Project, which is advocating extended benefits. “Record unemployment is not the right term; it far surpasses any previous period of unemployment, which is why we need these extra weeks of benefits.”

Date : 2/9/2010