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Unemployment Benefit Extension Clears First Hurdle

by Christine Stuart | Jan 8, 2014 6:30am
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Business, Congress, Labor, White House

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Sen. Richard Blumenthal at the CT Works Center last week

The U.S. Senate may have secured the necessary support to move forward with a vote on a three-month extension of unemployment benefits, but it still needs to reach agreement with Republicans and find $6.5 billion to pay for it.

Regardless of the details, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday’s vote means that “Congress is listening.”

“Unemployment insurance is a crucial lifeline that allows millions of unemployed Americans in Connecticut and across the country to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on their tables,” Blumenthal said. “My hope is Congress will fight for these Americans — as I’ll continue to do.”

Last week, Blumenthal joined two unemployed women in Hartford who told stories about how difficult it is to find a job. On Tuesday, Moodus, Conn. resident Katherine Hackett introduced President Barack Obama at a White House press conference.

In his remarks to reporters, Obama warned that Tuesday’s vote was only the first step toward restoring unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans.

“All they’ve agreed to so far is that we’re actually going to be able to have a vote on it,” Obama said. “They haven’t actually passed it. So we’ve got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay.”

The partisan gridlock in Washington didn’t magically disappear with the start of the new year.

“Looking ahead, House Leadership cannot hold the American people hostage as this measure advances,” U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, a Democrat from East Hartford, said Tuesday. “In the depths of this cold winter, we must vote to extend benefits that are morally right and economically sound to those who need our help.”

There are more than 22,000 Connecticut residents who lost their unemployment benefits on Dec. 28. Another 3,500 were informed last week that they may qualify for state unemployment benefits even though the federal benefits had expired.

Larson said his office has been fielding calls from constituents across the First Congressional District who stand to lose their unemployment benefits. Without the federal emergency benefits, Connecticut residents only receive 26 weeks of unemployment.

Who will pay for the extension?

Even though workers will no longer be receiving the federal emergency benefits, employers will still be paying a hefty price as the state looks to pay back the federal government for the money it borrowed when the Unemployment Trust Fund became insolvent on Oct. 31, 2009.

Employers have been paying a special assessment of about $15 for every unemployed worker in an effort to pay down the more than $575 million the state borrowed from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The state does not allocate money to the fund. It’s supported solely by businesses, which means employers will be on the hook for the special assessment for the next few years. That’s on top of the regular unemployment tax they pay to the state.

“Current economic projections suggest that we will not be in a position to pay off our federal loans in full for at least the next two to three years,” the Connecticut Department of Labor states on its website.

It’s unclear if extending the benefits would force the special assessment to increase since it’s unclear how Congress plans to pay for an extension.

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(10) Comments

posted by: justsayin | January 8, 2014  10:06am

I think we need to figure out where the money is going to come from, something needs to give if these benefits are extended. Business is clawing back adding more burden will not add jobs. Senator maybe you should focus less on the sound bites and more on finding good policy.

posted by: StanMuzyk | January 8, 2014  12:02pm

Money is never an object for Sen. Richard Blumenthal—who
has failed to seek and provide new jobs—and as a result—only push for extended unemployment benefits.  What happens when your extended benefits run out?  Are you going to push to put put these unemployed people on Social Security Disability, Sen. Blumenthal?
It’s no wonder our Social Security Fund is going broke.

posted by: dano860 | January 8, 2014  3:05pm

He acts as if he is an A.G. still.
If they find a method of paying for it with cuts to spending and not burdening the people doing the hiring then it should pass w/out much fanfare.
If not, the Democrats have the flexibility of funding it with their $22 B slush fund.
I continue to ask why it wasn’t put into the budget that sailed through so smoothly last year? The bi-partisan one, remember? That would have made sense and we can’t have any of that, now can we?

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | January 8, 2014  5:57pm

i’ve got a small company in France and they get astonishingly generous unemployment insurnace.  Consequently it is expensive to hire and layoff people.  So historically France has had much higher structural unemployment than other countries (and very much higher youth unemployment).  So our genius political class wants to go this way?

posted by: art vandelay | January 9, 2014  10:54am

art vandelay

Blumenthal FINALLY answered the question Linda McMahon posed to him during the debate about how he would create jobs.  Extend unemployment benefits and put more people on the DOLE!.

posted by: StanMuzyk | January 9, 2014  12:49pm

Art: You display a clever and CORRECT sense of humor—needed for Connecticut residents to retain their sanity—due the actions,and lack of action - by our inept elected political leadership.

posted by: art vandelay | January 9, 2014  4:08pm

art vandelay

@StanMuzyk,
At least someone appreciates my humor and at times point of view.  It’s tough being a Conservative in a Blue State.

posted by: StanMuzyk | January 9, 2014  9:00pm

Art: You coined it right.  We conservatives are vastly outnumbered by the liberals—and only get taxation—without representation—under their mandated. elected rule.

posted by: Raimo | January 30, 2014  9:43pm

I can tell you where the money is coming from. CT businesses. This is the third year that I have received a bill demanding that I pay extra unemployment tax. The state of CT has borrowed money from the Feds to extend unemployment benefits and once again can not pay back the loan. The only difference this year from the past 2 years is that with the FUTA reduction credit we are ordered this year to pay 13.3x what our bill was last year.

posted by: StanMuzyk | January 31, 2014  11:48am

@Raimo: Gov. Malloy won’t tell
us your disclosure when he runs for reelection.