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Bipartisan deal would renew long-term unemployment benefits

There are 3.8 million long-term unemployed in the U.S.
There are 3.8 million long-term unemployed in the U.S.
By Michael Raphael (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A group of 10 senators struck a bipartisan deal that would renew long-term unemployment benefits for the more than 2 million long-term unemployed Americans still struggling to find work. According to a March 14 report by US News, the 10 senators, which consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans, announced the pact and provided a timeline by which the legislation could pass in the Senate in late March. However, the fate of the bill once it reaches the House is uncertain.

Long-term unemployment benefits sticking point

Extended unemployment benefits expired on Dec. 28 for people out of work for 27 weeks or longer, leaving almost 37 percent of the unemployed without a benefits while they continued to search for work. The Republicans and Democrats have agreed they want to renew long-term unemployment benefits, but the sticking point has been how those benefits would be paid for. Sen. Jack Reed had spearheaded the Democrats' efforts and offered a proposal that would use savings already banked from last month's farm bill, but Republican Sen. Dean Heller had a proposal of his own that also called for making reforms to the unemployment system which included having applicants show how they plan to return to the workforce. Now Sens. Reed and Heller have come together and announced an agreement to reauthorize long-term unemployment insurance benefits for five months along with a proposal for how the extension would be paid for.

"The proposal is fully paid-for using a combination of offsets that includes extending “pension smoothing” provisions from the 2012 highway bill (MAP-21), which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024. The bill also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)." – Dean Heller website

According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the bill will be voted on by the full Senate shortly after the Senate returns from recess in two weeks.

Bill faces uncertain future in the House

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it is still uncertain whether or not it will survive a House vote. House Speaker Boehner said Friday that he thinks the bipartisan Senate deal "isn't feasible," which suggests the agreement is in trouble in the House. In the past, Boehner has said he would consider extending long-term unemployment benefits if there was a plan to offset the cost. As of Friday, Boehner's office had "no immediate update."

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