On Senate Vote to Advance Emergency Unemployment Compensation Bill

The following statement can be attributed to Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“Today’s Senate vote to move ahead on a bill to renew federal unemployment insurance through March 31st is an encouraging sign that the outrage being expressed by millions of Americans over the year-end shutdown of Emergency Unemployment Compensation for 1.3 million Americans has penetrated the warmth of Senate offices even as jobless workers and their families were left out in the cold.

“We commend Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) for working together to craft this emergency three-month extension, which would restore benefits retroactively to the now nearly 1.5 million jobseekers whose benefits were cut off.  And we applaud Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Dan Coats, Lisa Murkowski and Rob Portman for joining their Democratic and Independent colleagues to achieve the 60 votes needed to bring the Reed-Heller bill to the floor for debate.

“While we are pleased the Senate has overcome this procedural barrier, we are deeply concerned that some members will attempt to convert the upcoming discussion about renewing this crucial lifeline of support for the long-term unemployed into a rout on the basic unemployment insurance program or attempt to force draconian cuts in other safety net programs to pay for EUC renewal.  We completely support strengthening reemployment programs for the unemployed, and recognize that the long-term unemployed, in particular, need and would benefit from extra assistance in the form of job placement services, and where needed and appropriately funded and targeted, retraining.  We hope that Congress will find the will and the way to make that happen.  But conditioning assistance for the long-term unemployed on requirements that are punitive or counter-productive would be misguided and mean-spirited.

“We encourage the Senate to pass the Reed-Heller bill as introduced without further delay.  And, we urge Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to add renewal of Emergency Unemployment Compensation to the list of must-do items the House will take up and pass in the very near future.”

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