Squabbling Senate May Miss Deadline To Extend Unemployment Benefits For 1.2 Million Americans

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There’s not a single senator who does not want to extend unemployment benefits for the 1.2 million Americans that will lose benefits by the end of the month, but the august body may be too inept to pass the bill.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is pushing a bill that would extend by 30 days benefits for workers laid off through no fault of their own. Last year’s stimulus bill already extended benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks.

Standing in the way, according to HuffPo, is Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ken.), who insists on establishing a means of funding the extension.

Also in the way is Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is taking this moment of desperation to press the Senate for action on the estate tax.

Meanwhile, unemployment insurance recipients in Michigan are scared like hell. Here’s a letter they received this week (from Huffpo):

Dear Unemployment Insurance Recipient:

Our records indicate that you are currently receiving unemployment benefits through the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. While the first 26 weeks of your unemployment benefits are the responsibility of the State of Michigan, the federal government funds all unemployment benefit extensions. The United States Congress has until Sunday, February 28, to ensure that these federal benefit extensions continue.

If the Congress does not vote by February 28 to extend federal unemployment benefits, no new extensions will be established and the federal programs that are in place will be phased out. While we are hopeful that Congress will approve an extension of federally funded unemployment benefits by the end of February, this notice is being issued in the event that Congress does not act. Among the specific benefit programs that will be affected if Congress fails to act will be the following:

Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Tier 1 – Maximum 20 weeks of benefitsl EUC Tier 2 – Maximum 14 weeks of benefits; EUC Tier 3 – Maximum 13 weeks of benefits; EUC Tier 4 – Maximum 6 weeks of benefits; Extended Benefits (EB) – Maximum 20 weeks of benefits. Additionally, the Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) extra payment of $25 per week will also expire.

If these federal extensions expire, the following will occur:

– If you are currently receiving state funded unemployment benefits, you will not receive an extension of your benefits.
– If you are currently receiving a federall funded extension of your benefits, you will not receive any further extension of benefits.
– Extended Benefits can only be paid up to the week ending March 27, 2010.

If Congress fails to extend the expiration date by February 28, 2010, the Unemployment Insurance Agency will begin mailing all unemployed workers currently collecting benefits a letter with more specific information.

If Congress extends the expiration date, extensions will continue through the new expiration date. You will not receive a letter, but this information will be available on the agency’s web site at www.michigan.gov/uia and in the news media.

If is our hope that the Congress will act to avoid an interruption in the unemployment benefits that are available to you. And, in fact, we are working to encourage Congress to act quickly so benefits will continue. However, we also understand how critical these benefits are to you and that is why we are providing this notice so you will not be caught unaware if the Congress fails to act by February 28, 2010.

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