Senate Votes to Proceed with Unemployment Insurance Extension Bill

The Senate today passed a procedural vote (60-37) to allow consideration of a bill that would temporarily extend unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans struggling with long-term unemployment.

The unemployment rate is at 7 percent, and the long-term unemployment rate (those who have been unemployed for 6 months or more) is still extremely high at 2.6 percent.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, unemployment insurance helps the economy by boosting demand during periods of economic weakness. Congressional inaction on unemployment benefits as of the December 28, 2013 expiration date led to a drain of $400 million from state economies in one week.

“Economic downturns hurt minority communities first, worst, and longest,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement. “Adding the stigma of long-term unemployment compounds the employment challenges facing communities of color and people with disabilities, who have faced disproportionately high rates of unemployment. Unemployment insurance is a lifeline for these families with few job prospects.”

The majority of Americans support maintaining federal jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, according to a National Employment Law Project (NELP) poll conducted by Hart Research Associates. The poll surveyed more than 800 voters across the country and found strong support for renewing emergency unemployment insurance.  The majority of voters reject the claim that unemployed workers are not trying to find work, 57 percent say that the unemployed “would rather work, but cannot find a job in today’s economy.”

The final Senate vote on the bill will be held later this week. If Congress fails to extend emergency unemployment benefits, another 1.9 million Americans will lose support by the end of June 2014.