The Senate took a significant step forward on Wednesday by passing a bill aimed at extending federal unemployment benefits for over 2 million jobless Americans through May 31. The bill, passing with a vote of 59 to 38, has the potential to provide a lifeline to those who have been left without benefits since the recession-era program expired on December 28.
The fate of the bill in the House remains uncertain, especially since Speaker John Boehner has expressed concerns about it. The Senate managed to secure six Republican votes in favor of the $9 billion extension.
The Senate’s legislation seeks to retroactively support those who have been without unemployment benefits since late December, providing back payments for the missed state checks. This will assist approximately 2.3 million long-term unemployed individuals, including those who have exhausted their state benefits in recent months, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a Washington-based advocacy group.
Top Republicans have pushed for any extension of unemployment benefits to include a revamp of federal job training programs. However, there is disagreement within the House on this matter. Last month, Speaker Boehner described the Senate bill as “unworkable” due to concerns raised by state administrators about implementing the program within a tight timeframe.
Should the bill successfully pass in the House, it could take several months to reinstate these unemployment benefits. While the path forward is challenging, the National Employment Law Project applauded the Senate’s bipartisan effort to provide critical relief to millions of Americans facing ongoing financial hardship.
The fate of the unemployed workers who have struggled without benefits since December is now in the hands of the House, where the bill’s outcome is awaited with bated breath.