Unemployment Benefits For Millions Once Again Hung Up in The Senate

For the third time in as many months, unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans could begin running out if the Senate doesn’t act.

Emergency unemployment compensation expired this past Wednesday, a Pennsylvania state official warns. Without immediate Senate attention to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians will be left without any supplemental income while they seek new work, according to Pennsylvania Labor & Industry Secretary Sandi Vito. Millions of other jobless Americans also could be affected.

The Labor Department released May jobs data on Friday. The economy added 431,000 jobs last month, but most of those were part-time Census positions. The national unemployment rate dipped from 9.9 percent, to a still-high 9.7 percent. The ongoing economic slump represents the worst such downturn since the Great Depression.

“Although we’ve seen signs of job growth nationally – and particularly in Pennsylvania – there are still five workers for every job opening,” Vito says. “Current extensions on unemployment benefits must be continued until the end of the year, so that people, families and communities can take advantage of opportunities presented by the growing economy, but not be decimated in the interim.

“Record numbers of individuals are still looking for work. I’ve personally spoken to many unemployed people who are diligently looking for work, and they need more time for the economic recovery to reach them,” Vito adds.

The House approved HR 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, which would extend unemployment benefits, among its other provisions, before lawmakers left Washington for their Memorial Day recess. The Senate, however, has not yet voted on the measure, which leaves the future of unemployment benefits in doubt.

The Senate returns to session on Monday, but the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 is not listed on its calendar that day. It’s unclear when senators may bring it up for consideration.

This is not for the first time that the Senate has left the nation’s unemployed hanging to see whether they would be able to continue to collecting their supplemental cash income.

Republicans temporarily blocked two earlier short-term extensions of unemployment compensation in recent months. In separate episodes, Sens. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma each complained about the cost of such extensions to federal budget deficits.

In addition to unemployment compensation programs, HR 4213 provides funding for states to implement summer youth employment programs, Pennsylvania’s Vito notes in a statement. The legislation also extends the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, contingency funding, which supports a recently implemented PA Way to Work subsidized-employment initiative, she says.

“Summer youth employment programs and subsidized employment are important tools in the state’s overall economic recovery strategy,” Vito says. “These two provisions of the bill should be maintained, so that states can implement important back-to-work programs.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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