At the end of December, some 1.3 million Americans who received long-term unemployment insurance from the federal government didn’t get their monthly check. Their benefits were not included in a budget deal that Congress squeaked out before the start of the new year.
Democrats in the Senate are trying to restore the Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which was available to those who couldn’t find work for more than six months. On Tuesday, they saw some progress: the Senate voted 60-37 to move forward with a bill that would extend the compensation for three months.
Here’s a little background about this kind of assistance from NPR:
Federal unemployment benefits were signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush to provide an average of $300 a week to jobless Americans for an additional 28 weeks after their state benefits expired. It was meant as a stopgap measure during the recession, which saw the worst unemployment in decades. As the length and depth of the recession dragged on, the measure was extended more than 10 times.
GOP lawmakers pushed not to extend the benefits this time around, arguing that the measure would add billions to the deficit. They also pointed to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, which show that overall unemployment is at its lowest mark in five years. Democrats counter that long-term unemployment numbers have remained unchanged, and that suddenly cutting off the jobless from federal assistance will only do them harm.
Yesterday’s vote was only a procedural hurdle, and the bill still has to clear the Republican-controlled House. It’s not yet clear whether this will happen. Conservatives say they still need to see proposals for spending cuts elsewhere in the budget to cover the cost of the three-month extension.