Bipartisan Unemployment Benefits Bills in Both Houses
by Jessica Schieder, 7/2/2014
Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) have introduced a bill (S. 2532) in the Senate to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed for five months. Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) have introduced companion legislation (H.R. 4970) in the House of Representatives.
For the first time in months, there is legislation in both houses of Congress to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, which could provide some needed relief for more than 3.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months despite actively searching for jobs.
While there is widespread skepticism that both bills will pass, the legislation’s introduction has added fresh momentum to the call for extended unemployment benefits.
Similar to the five-month extension bill that expired at the end of May, the new legislation is completely paid for and will not add to the deficit. The $9.7 billion cost of the bills is offset by customs fees and a reduction in the tax-deductible pension fund contributions that corporations must make.
Disappointingly, the bills contain no retroactive pay for people who were cut off from EUC in December 2013. For these folks – many of whom have depleted their retirement savings, have been forced to sell their valuables, and have lost their homes – the bills offer only forward-looking support.
Being without emergency unemployment benefits for up to six months has left many families deep in debt, from which they might never emerge without the assistance provided by retroactive benefits.
Being without emergency unemployment benefits for up to six months has left many families deep in debt, from which they might never emerge without the assistance provided by retroactive benefits. The failure of some in Congress to act on behalf of these individuals with urgency will likely continue to haunt them in the form of forfeited educational opportunities and bad credit.
- For Pamela in Glenn Springs, South Carolina, who is now three months behind on her mortgage, there will be no money to help her catch up and save her home.
- For Donna in New York, New York, whose eldest child dropped out of college as her mother became homeless, there will be no relief or help to get her child back into a Bachelor’s degree program.
- For Sharon in Louisville, Kentucky, who says she won’t be able to retire until she’s 70 because she’s depleted her 401(k), there will be no assistance that allows her to replenish her savings.
The exclusion of retroactive benefits will have these and other long-term impacts, which will reduce the security of working families and tax revenue for the government for years to come. According to the National Employment Law Project, “It appears that it’s been deemed politically impossible to include the fully retroactive provisions contained in the earlier Senate-passed extension. That is not merely unfortunate – it’s truly tragic.”
The Center for Effective Government will continue to host weekly Witness Wednesdays: Voices of the Unemployed events in July. The events start up again on July 9 at 12:30pm at the House Triangle at the foot of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. Events on July 16, July 23, and July 30 will be held at the same time and in the same location.
Along with our partners – the Coalition on Human Needs, the National Women’s Law Center, and the National Employment Law Project – we have welcomed more than a dozen members of Congress, numerous faith leaders, several labor leaders, and more than a handful of nonprofit leaders to read aloud stories from individuals and families who have fallen through the cracks. These stories have shattered stereotypes and have demonstrated that long-term unemployed Americans want the chance to roll up their sleeves, get back to work, and provide for their families.
For additional information on the Witness Wednesdays: Voices of the Unemployed events, click the logo below.
For Further Reading
Unemployed Americans Kicked Out of Capitol, Forced to Share Their Stories Outside, The Fine Print blog, May 10, 2014
Six Months after Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expired, 2.8 Million Americans Left Behind, The Fine Print blog, May 21, 2014
Witness Wednesdays: Stories of the Long-Term Unemployed to Be Read on Capitol Hill, The Fine Print blog, June 10, 2014
Highway Trust Fund Temporarily Saved, Unemployed Still Waiting on EUC, The Fine Print Blog, July 18, 2014
Editor's note: This post has been updated since its original publication date.