More than a half year after the AFL-CIO urged Congress to provide extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to jobless workers who exhaust theirs without finding new work, Congress passed a UI extension.
The U.S. Senate late yesterday passed a supplemental funding bill for the war in Iraq that includes an additional 13 weeks of UI benefits for the estimated 300,000 jobless workers a month who don’t find a new job before running out of benefits. The bill also provides new GI bill education benefits for Iraq-era military veterans.
The U.S. House approved the war funding bill last week, and President Bush, after months of veto threats, says he will sign the legislation after reaching a deal with congressional negotiators earlier this month.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates about 4 million workers will be eligible for the extension over the next year. By the end of May, some 1.55 million workers had been unemployed for longer than six months, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
According to NELP, the bill contains a “look-back” period for workers who exhausted benefits after November 2006 and still haven’t found work. The 13-week extension will be available to workers who run out of their jobless benefits between now and March 2009
Early this year, President Bush promised to veto the bill if the UI extension was included. Bush and some Republican lawmakers, who repeatedly blocked efforts to extend jobless benefits, claimed the economy wasn’t in bad enough shape to justify additional help for the unemployed.
Five straight months of job loss and growing unemployment—May saw the biggest increase in the unemployment rate in more than 20 years—forced Bush to drop his opposition to the extended benefits.
Also, Bush, along with Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), initially opposed the expansion of the GI educational benefits Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) introduced last year, which were added to the war funding bill. (Click here to take a look at McCain’s record on veterans’ issues).
The current GI bill now covers only a portion of the rising cost of education for today’s returning veterans. Service members returning from
According to Webb, the new bill is about "taking care of the people who have taken care of us. I am looking forward to the President living up to his word, and signing this legislation at his earliest opportunity."
The bill also includes money to help the Midwest recover from the recent devastating flooding and funds for the continuing recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina. It also blocks a series of Bush administration rules that would have cut Medicaid health services for low-income families.