WASHINGTON - Efforts to approve an extension of emergency unemployment benefits before a November 30 deadline were blocked in the Senate last night, leaving millions of workers and their families facing the potential loss of vital income heading into the holiday season.
Senator Max Baucus, D. Mont., introduced a bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits by a year, but Republicans used Senate rules to prevent the measure from getting a vote. Most states only provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and without emergency benefits provided by the federal government, they will be forced to start cutting off benefits immediately.
“Blocking a vote on the Baucus bill is a tragic and historic mistake,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“Congress has never before cut back on federally-funded benefits when unemployment was over 7.2 percent, and it’s been near double digits for more than a year. The vote against the bill appears especially indifferent to Black and Hispanic workers, whose unemployment rate is far higher and whose communities have suffered the most since the start of the Great Recession,” she added.
Despite strong public for support extending unemployment benefits, some elected officials in both parties – objecting over concerns about the deficit – are calling for this temporary, emergency spending to be paid for. Public interest advocates and economists have pointed out that requiring the continuation of emergency UI benefits to be paid for would erase the stimulative effects to the economy, while having a negligible impact on long-term deficits. Many of these same policymakers support renewing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers. Over the next decade, extending all of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for those making over $250,000 would increase the deficit by $700 billion, while doing little to help the economy or create jobs.
The Leadership Conference and its coalition partners are urging Congress to pass a one year extension of emergency unemployment benefits before the end of the lame duck session.