It's been months since Congress let emergency unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans. The cut-off date was December 28, 2013, and 1.3 million Americans were immediately left entirely to fend for themselves. Since then, roughly 70,000 more Americans have joined their ranks every week.
Now, after endless negotiations and repeated Democratic compromises, enough Republican senators have joined with Democrats to finally pass an unemployment extension. The bill has now been sent to the Republican-controlled House — and, according to the Huffington Post, it looks like that's where it'll stay.
Speaker of the House John Boehner has long indicated that his caucus is unlikely to allow a vote on passing the extension, citing bureaucratic implementation difficulties on the state-level as well as the bill's supposed failure to create new jobs. On the first score, Boehner's claim is debatable; and on the second, his argument is refuted by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which has said the extension would create 300,000 jobs.
Nevertheless, as was made clear by a statement from Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, that's House Republicans' story and they're sticking to it.
"As the Speaker said months ago, we are willing to look at extending emergency unemployment insurance as long as it includes provisions to help create more private-sector jobs — but, last week, Senate Democratic Leaders ruled out adding any jobs measures at all," Steel said. "The American people are still asking, 'Where are the jobs?’ and House Republicans are focused on our jobs agenda for families and small businesses."
To win Republican support, Senate Democrats incorporated several of their ideas in its bill, including a ban on millionaires receiving benefits and "enhanced, personalized assessments and referrals to reemployment services."
As it routinely does in recessions, Congress gave the long-term jobless extra weeks of federally funded benefits starting in 2008. When apathetic lawmakers let the compensation lapse in December, 1.3 million workers immediately stopped receiving benefits. Each week since then, another 70,000 workers would have been eligible for assistance after exhausting state-funded benefits, which last six months in most states. Theoretically, all those people would receive lump-sum checks for the weeks they missed.
Democrats say that it's too soon to withdraw help for people unemployed six months or longer, who numbered 3.7 million in March. Even though their ranks have declined by a million since last year, the average unemployment spell had dragged on for 35 weeks.