Rhode Island has the highest official unemployment in the nation at 9 percent, while Nevada is No. 3 at 8.5 percent. When the program for the long-term unemployed expired at the end of last year, 21,700 jobless Rhode Islanders immediately lost their compensation and 60,300 Nevadans lost theirs. Nationwide, the suddenly cut-off were tallied at 1.3 million. In the 14 weeks since then, an additional 980,000 or so Americans have exhausted their state jobless benefits and would be eligible for the federal program if it were renewed.
S. 2148, passed with votes from six Republican senators a week ago, would provide a retroactive extension lasting until the end of May. But chances in the House are dicey, to say the least. Boehner has said he wants job provisions added to any bill presented for a vote, but won't come up with any. House Republican Reps. Pete King, Chris Gibson and Michael Grimm of New York; Frank LoBiondo, Chris Smith and Jon Runyan of New Jersey; and Joe Heck of Nevada have all publicly come out in support of renewing the federal program. But it will take more than their votes to get the extension approved.
As Laura Clawson has noted, in addition to Boehner's call for job provisions, House Republicans want any renewal to include offsets and other provisions that amount to poison pills. These include approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and more business tax breaks.
The Chafee-Sandoval letter (dated April 11) states, in part:
As you know, long-term unemployment remains unacceptably high despite the fact that our economy has been recovering from the worst recession in generations. When our country has experienced similar rates of long-term unemployment in the past, Congress has consistently acted in a bipartisan fashion to extend emergency unemployment benefits.Stonewalling renewal is not about logistics, but GOP's you're-on-your-own philosophy. It's possible that with enough maneuvering and enough Democratic giving in on offsets, an extension will be approved. But Congress is on vacation until April 28. If a the Senate-passed extension does manage to obtain an okay in the House, the compensation program will be near its next expiration date.
Some groups have expressed concerns with the inherent complexities of administering S. 2148. Despite these challenges, our states are more than capable of implementing this legislation, including the administration of retroactive benefits, which we have successfully done in the past.