About 38,000 out-of-work Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits starting in the second week of April because the Senate recessed through April 12 without approving a needed extension of those benefits, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis warns.
The Senate adjourned for its annual Easter recess Friday, failing once again to extend unemployment insurance payments and COBRA benefits for jobless Americans. Last week, action on the matter was blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Just weeks ago, another Republican, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, blocked such an extension.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate was prevented from taking action on legislation to extend funding for unemployment insurance and the COBRA subsidy. There is no room for partisan roadblocks when Americans are depending on their government’s action and the stakes are this high,” Solis says. “Beginning in early April, large numbers of workers will face the loss of essential benefits. Unemployment insurance recipients will not be able to move from regular state unemployment programs into Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and in some cases, individuals may stop receiving benefits outright.”
Unemployment insurance provides out-of-work Americans with a small cash benefit while they look for a new job. COBRA benefits help provide them healthcare coverage while unemployed.
The national unemployment rate still stands at a decades-high 9.7 percent, as millions of Americans cannot find work in a labor market left soft as a result of the long recession. Estimates say there are six Americans seeking any one job.
Without an extension of funding for EUC and full federal funding of the Extended Benefit program, nearly 38,000 Americans could lose these vital benefits starting the second week in April, Solis says. By mid-May, more than 1.2 million would be left without these benefits. And, if eligibility for the Recovery Act COBRA subsidy is not extended, thousands of families could lose access to affordable health care, she adds.
“As I have said before, we cannot stop supporting workers who are desperately seeking jobs, but — in many cases — simply cannot find them. For many households with an unemployed worker, these benefits are the only thing that allows them to keep paying the bills and supporting their families as they look for new employment,” Solis says. “I am hopeful that the few senators opposed to extending benefits will allow an expedient up-or-down vote on the bill upon Congress’ return to Washington. Those Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of this recession are counting on these senators to put partisanship aside and pass this important legislation.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.