Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Obama Budget Includes 7-Month Extension of Unemployment Benefits

The Obama administration’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2011, unveiled yesterday, includes $49 billion to expand federal unemployment benefits, which otherwise expire at the end of the month. That’s more than the $41 billion the House passed in December to extend the benefits for six months, but wouldn’t be enough to satisfy that long list of Senate Democrats urging a 10-month extension.

“This would allow for some near-term extension of expanded unemployment benefits,” analysts at the Economic Policy Institute wrote today. “However, with costs of around $7 billion per month, this funding level would not be sufficient to extend the current benefit structure through the end of the year.”

It’s hardly set in stone. A spokesperson for the Labor Department said this week that the $49 billion is just a “placeholder,” included to recognize that the administration intends to work with Congress later to hash out the details of the unemployment insurance extension. “The Administration will propose legislation for later transmittal,” the budget declares.

They’re running out of time. Under current law, unemployed workers who exhaust their current tier of federal benefits after Feb. 28 won’t be eligible for the next. A Senate Democratic aide said Tuesday that the upper chamber, while expected to release the details of its jobs bill later this week, also intends to offer the UI and COBRA proposals as separate legislation. No word yet when that bill will surface.
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