The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 31, 2014

Jobless benefits extension needs loud and clear push

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON – Congress failed to extend unemployment benefits for some 1.4 million jobless workers – including about 45,000 in Michigan late last year and again earlier this month.

Democrats in the Senate fell one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the $6.4 billion jobless benefits extension in the Senate. A handful of GOP senators crossed the aisle to move the legislation along, but there wasn’t quite enough Republican support. The Republican-run House is another story: there is little appetite by the GOP to spend federal dollars on the jobless without some kind of offset in the in the budget.

The average weekly benefit for jobless workers among the states is about $300.

“In short,” said a Washington Post article last week, “the only realistic hope for an extension is old-fashioned politics. Members (of Congress) have to hear a loud and clear message this week from constituents and stakeholders back home that not extending benefits is simply unacceptable. As the economic damage mounts — the economy is bleeding $1 billion per week without an extension — the push will have to come not only from the jobless but also from businesses affected by the absence of benefit checks.”

Lobbying by labor union leaders has not been enough. To find your Congressman and make your voice heard, go to

“It’s appalling that once again Senate Republicans are refusing to approve an unemployment benefits extension with no strings attached,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.   “Meanwhile millions of people who want to work but cannot find jobs are facing additional weeks without much needed benefits.”

The GOP is demanding other program cuts, notably to the Affordable Care Act – the 2010 health care law – to offset the cost of extending the benefits for three months retroactive to Jan. 1.  Senate Democrats rejected those demands, but lacked the needed 60 votes to pass the jobless benefits alone, without any offsetting cuts.

The extended federal jobless benefits are in addition to state jobless benefits, paid for by workers and employers, which range from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.  The extended federal benefits lasted up to 73 weeks after state benefits expire.   They’re particularly valuable to the long-term jobless, who are three of every eight jobless workers.