Congress to renew national unemployment compensation program

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Congress to renew national unemployment compensation program
Boulevard of Unemployment
Sean Low

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, enacted under President Bush in 2008, expired at the end of December 2013 leaving millions unemployed without state benefits or relief. President Barack Obama has made extending the unemployment benefits program his first priority on his agenda for 2014.

On January 7, the Democratic-controlled United States Senate voted 60-37 to advance the unemployment benefits bill. Taking the first step to approving the unemployment benefits program’s renewal, Senate will bring this bill to the floor, where it will be debated and voted on. Currently, the bill needs a simple majority (50 percent or more) within the Senate to pass.

With Congressional Republicans advocating for spending cuts to balance the costs of the unemployment program, a simple majority has not yet been reached in the Senate. The renewed EUC program will offer extra income for the long-term unemployed citizens who have already exhausted their regular unemployment insurance.

The EUC will cover from six weeks to twenty weeks past the expiration of regular unemployment insurance. Senators are debating whether there are any faster ways to compensate for the costs of renewing the program. According to the New York Times, if the federal government paid three months’ worth of  national unemployment benefits, it would cost $6.4 billion in spending reductions from other governmental sectors, especially the Housing and Urban Development Department, Department of Education, Security and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Communication Commission. If Congress extends unemployment benefits for a year, the cost can rise up to $26 billion.After the Senate passes the bill, the House of Representatives will review and vote on it. However, it is unlikely the bill will clear the House, which is controlled by Republicans who propose more cost-effective methods to compensate for federal social welfare programs. Ideas for other effective methods include work-sharing programs, tax incentives for companies hiring the long-term unemployed and relocation assistance.

While President Obama waits for Congress to debate the bill, corporate executives will meet in the White House in late January to discuss initiatives for long-term unemployment assistance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the unemployment rate for college graduates from 20- to 29-year-olds was 12.6 percent in 2011. This rate is still above the unemployment rate from before the 2007-2009 recession. To decrease the unemployment rate, President Obama, according to CBS News, will “be joined by college presidents as we lay out specific steps we can take to help more young people go to college and graduate with the skills they need for today’s new jobs.”

Written by CHRISTINE SMET
Staff Writer 

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