WASHINGTON, DC – Today, 25 days after the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) to reauthorize emergency UI benefits for 5 months, Senators Reed and Heller urged their Congressional colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to allow a vote on the legislation.
The Reed-Heller bill was cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and, if passed by the House, is expected to provide assistance for more than 2.79 million eligible Americans, including 12,000 Rhode Islanders and over 34,000 Nevadans.
It has been 126 days since UI benefits were cutoff on December 28, 2013, when Congress failed to reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 1.3 million Americans lost access to their unemployment insurance. Since that time, the number of American job seekers who have exhausted their benefits and had this critical emergency UI safety net cut has doubled. As of today, 2.6 million Americans have been cut off.
“Congress must come together to improve our economy, help create jobs, and put people back to work. Emergency unemployment insurance is a lifeline for job seekers and restoring it will strengthen the recovery by bolstering demand at a critical time,” said Senator Jack Reed. “I urge the House Republican leadership to listen to the American people, stop the obstruction, and allow an up or down vote on the bipartisan, Senate-passed bill.”
“It has been 25 days since the Senate passed legislation to extend emergency unemployment benefits for the millions of people actively searching for work. American job seekers are desperate to know whether or not they will be able to rely on these benefits in order to take care of their basic needs. I encourage the House of Representatives to move forward on this bill, and take steps necessary to ensure that these benefits end up in the hands of those who rely on them while they look for employment,” said Senator Dean Heller.
The Reed-Heller bill seeks to strengthen the U.S. economy while providing vulnerable job seekers and their families with a critical support as they continue to look for work. The legislation 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). The bill would also strengthen reemployment and eligibility assessment (REA) and ReEmployment Services (RES) programs. In an effort to help get job seekers back into the workforce, individuals receiving emergency unemployment compensation will be eligible for enhanced, personalized assessments and referrals to reemployment services when they begin their 27th week of UI (Tier I) and 55th week of UI (Tier III).
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 2.79 million Americans will be eligible for UI benefits under the plan approved by the U.S. Senate, which allows for retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to December 28th.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that failing to renew these benefits for a full year could cost the economy 200,000 jobs nationwide.