Senate to debate jobless benefits

Correction to Baldwin quote: “The fact that five Republicans are original authors of this bill is important,” said Baldwin. “I hope they will talk to their counterparts in the House of Representatives.”

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted today to move ahead with legislation that would extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

Those federal benefits ran out for many at the end of December. Even with the vote, it could still be a while before those benefits return.

Since December, nearly 45,000 Wisconsin residents have lost emergency unemployment benefits. That number is from Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office. The Democrat is pushing legislation that would bring those benefits back.

“It’s clear that there are still many, many people in Wisconsin and across the nation who despite very hard efforts to find work, are still out of work,” said Baldwin.

Congress had a chance to extend the benefits at the end of 2013, but did not.

The program generally helps workers who’ve been out of work for more than 26 weeks.

Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson, sided with Baldwin in a Thursday vote, which allows lawmakers to begin debating the benefits.

In a statement, Johnson says, “letting the Senate debate the reinstatement of extended benefits will give Harry Reid and his Senate Democrats a chance to prove they are serious about setting priorities in spending.”

Even if the legislation passes in the Senate, it still needs to pass in the House.

“The fact that five Republicans are original authors of this bill is important,” said Baldwin. “I hope they will talk to their counterparts in the House of Representatives.”

House Speaker John Boehner has been opposed to the bill. Boehner cites a letter from state agencies saying the bill would be difficult to implement, in particular, being able to distribute retroactive benefits.

“I have every faith that states should be able to handle this,” said Baldwin.

The bill would extend the benefits for five months. With retroactive payments included, the benefits would expire again in May.

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