House, Senate at odds over unemployment extension

The US Senate passed a bill with overwhelming support from senators of both parties and the backing of Obama which had a provision for extended unemployment benefits for two months in 2012. This means the federal extended unemployment benefits will continue to be paid for even those nearing the end of the maximum 99 weeks.

As stated by National Employment Law Project (NELP) paper, nearly seven million Americans who are sustained by government unemployment checks are at risk. For these people, their benefits are set to expire in 2012 unless a unemployment benefits extension law is passed. About two million people will lose their benefit checks in January and another 4 million over the remainder of 2012. These checks average about $300 per week which is only 50 percent of money required to cover the basic necessities of food, housing and transportation in the US as per the annual Consumer Expenditure Survey.

As per a statement in The Hill News newspaper, the possibility of the two month of extension may not be the best holiday present but it gets the jobless through the first part of the year for those who are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Republican and Democratic senators could not agree on a yearlong deal for 2012 and have opted for the two-month extension. The bill still needs to be affirmed by the House of Representatives and acknowledged by President Barack Obama.

According to a statement by White House communications director Pfeiffer, Obama would approve the extension into law if it reaches him but it’s not clear whether the Republican-led House will pass it next week. However, as per Kevin Smith, a representative of Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio, they have not signed off on anything and are yet to take decisions after talking to their members.

Congress must make a decision early 2011 what it wants to do after February once the two month extension passes. The Democrats wish for a maximum of 73 weeks of benefits extension while the Republicans desire fewer.

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