Reed-Heller would help about 12,000 Rhode Islanders & provide over $60 million to boost the state’s economy

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate took the last of a series of procedural votes today to set up final passage Monday of bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) to reauthorize emergency unemployment insurance benefits (UI) for five months. 

"This is about helping people who are in a really difficult situation.  I am glad the Senate took bipartisan action to move forward.  Restoring emergency unemployment insurance will boost our economy and help job seekers, families, and small businesses,” said Reed.  “We need to get our country back to full employment -- to a place where all Americans have an opportunity earn a living and build a better life for their families.  We hope the House takes this up quickly and we’ll continue to work in a bipartisan fashion to get this done.”

The Reed-Heller bill was cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and is expected to provide assistance to more than 2.79 million eligible Americans, including 12,000 Rhode Islanders.

Today’s votes come 96 days after 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 emergency unemployment insurance.  Since that time, more than 1 million American job seekers have exhausted their benefits and lost access to this critical emergency UI safety net.  As of today, over 2.3 million Americans have been cut off.

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 U.S. Department of Labor estimates 2.79 million Americans will be eligible for UI benefits under the plan advanced today, which includes over 2 million who would see retroactive benefits; the legislation will allow for retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to December 28th.

The bill is estimated to provide nearly $9 billion to help job seekers nationwide, including about $61.3 million to Rhode Islanders, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Reed-Heller agreement also includes language to 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).