Could an Unemployment Extension Be Back on the Table?

By | November 18, 2014 at 10:31 PM |

Recently, there has been little word from either side of the aisle regarding a possible extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. That changed when Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez issued a statement indicating that the current administration has not given up on the idea of renewing a federal extension for long-term unemployment insurance benefits.

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The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was allowed to expire at the end of December last year. Since that time, more than 3 million individuals in the United States have been kept from receiving benefits. The EUC program was originally intended to be renewed the following month, in January 2014.

Unfortunately, the program, which relied on federal funds to extend unemployment benefits beyond the approximate six months provided by most states, has not been revived. A bipartisan move to reinstate the program gained headway but was eventually blocked by House Republicans.

House Speaker John Boehner has stated that he has no intention of supporting a bill that does not also include measures and tax incentives to support the creation of jobs. Since that time, Speaker Boehner has issued statements indicating that he believes extending long-term unemployment benefits could actually prolong unemployment.

While Perez’s comments may have breathed new life into the hope that long-term unemployment benefits could be extended, the secretary of labor did not provide any indication regarding how that might happen. For the most part, monthly jobs reports from the Department of Labor have remained good this year.

As unemployment claims continue to fall, the importance of the issue at hand becomes less and less relevant. At the same time, long-term unemployment remains high. To date, beyond Perez’s statement, few officials have been willing to tackle the subject of extending long-term unemployment benefits.

This has proven to be particularly true after the country went through midterm elections. Both Democrats and Republicans have been unwilling to bring up the subject for fear of the backlash that it could bring.

At the same time that millions of long-term jobless wait to receive word on whether they will receive further assistance, almost 150 workers of Fusion Paperboard received notice that they will qualify for extended unemployment benefits.

The company, a factory that manufactured thin cardboard, recently closed. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the firm closed due to international economic forces. Along with qualifying for extended unemployment benefits, former workers of Fusion Paperboard will also qualify to receive free tuition from a federal program.

After exhausting their original 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, Fusion Paperboard employees will qualify to receive extended unemployment benefits provided that they are in a training program or for as long as they are waiting to enter a training program. The maximum length of benefits for which the workers will qualify is two and a half years. In the event that workers need to relocate in order to accept a new job, they will also qualify for relocation costs.

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