By Stephen Kopko
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON D.C., United States-The United States Senate failed to pass an extension in unemployment benefits which are set to expire today. This failure has the potential to impact many United States citizens that depend on the benefits while they are trying to find jobs.
The United States government offers unemployment benefits of money as well as health insurance to those who lose their jobs and meet certain criteria. A person can receive up to ninety-nine weeks of unemployment benefits during their lifetime. There are three tiers to the program. The tier affected by the Senate’s failure was the final tier of unemployment benefits, the extended benefits protection program. Those who qualify for extended benefits receive cash and health insurance for thirteen to twenty weeks after they have exhausted the other two tiers of insurance. The failure of the Senate to appropriate funds for the program can impact thousands of people that depend on the program to survive. According to the Department of Labor, approximately four-hundred thousand people will be affected in the first two weeks of March if funding is not passed. If funding is not passed until May, three million people would be affected. The unemployment extension program costs approximately ten billion dollars.
The program’s funding was held up by Senator Jim Bunning. Senator Bunning’s main contention for halting debate on funding for the program and not allowing it to go forward to vote is the cost of the program. He believed that Congress should not add to the federal deficit by funding the program but find a way to pay for the program before funding is approved. Senator Bunning believes that if the program is critical to the well-being of unemployed Americans, legislators could find a way to pay for the program.
Supporters of the program believe Congress does not have to find a way to pay for the program before funding is appropriated because it is an emergency program. They argued that the program is necessary while the United States is fighting out of an economic recession. According to Senator Barbara Boxer, “Unemployment insurance is a lifeline to the long-term unemployed whose families have been hit very hard by the recession.”
Many Senators hope to pass the funding next week. They will try to pass funding retroactively to account for the days that are missed by not extending the program on Friday.
For more information, please see:
CNN-Lone Senator blocks unemployment benefit extensions-27 February 2010
NY TIMES-Conflict in Senate Could Get Messier-27 February 2010
Christian Science Monitor-Jim Bunning killed the unemployment benefits extension. What now?-26 February 2010