Republicans Block Unemployment Insurance in Senate Again

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Legislation that would extend emergency unemployment insurance for millions of Americans who are looking for work was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate today. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow voted in favor of the measure, which would extend benefits for three months and retroactively restore emergency unemployment insurance to thousands of Michigan families. Unemployment insurance for nearly 60,000 people in Michigan expired on Dec. 28 after Republicans blocked an effort to extend the program into 2014. Previous attempts to move forward on this critical temporary assistance were also blocked by Republicans, despite historically bipartisan support for the legislation that was first enacted under President Bush.

"It is outrageous that Republicans are playing political games with the emergency help people need to put food on the table, keep the heat on during these extremely cold temperatures, and keep a roof over their head while they look for a job," said Stabenow. "When President Bush first signed this emergency support into law in 2008, like during past downturns, this kind of temporary assistance was approved on a bipartisan basis. We should be helping people who are looking for work, not pulling the rug out from under them."

Extended unemployment insurance has historically been passed on a bipartisan basis during times of high unemployment to help struggling families and to help bolster the economy. Emergency unemployment insurance was passed in the heart of the recent downturn in 2008 and has been reauthorized several times since as unemployment has remained above average. While the economy has been recovering over the past several years, there are still 1.3 million fewer jobs than there were before the recession began, and there are still three unemployed people looking for work for every one job available. When President Bush first signed extended unemployment benefits in 2008, the national unemployment rate was 5.6%. The national unemployment rate is currently 6.7%, and in Michigan the rate is 8.4%. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics is expected to release unemployment updated numbers from January 2014 tomorrow.

The legislation that was voted on today would provide a three-month benefit extension, retroactive to Dec. 28, 2013.

Economists agree that extended unemployment insurance provides a boost to the economy. Failure to extend federal unemployment insurance would hurt job growth throughout the nation, costing the economy 240,000 jobs, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The CEA estimates that in Michigan alone, failing to extend the program will cost 8,450 jobs.